Thursday, December 10, 2009

Satan And The Thetans

If you want to record an album and happen to be Charlotte Gainsbourg – the French actress daughter of Serge Gainsbourg and Jane Birkin – all you have to do is make a wish and Jarvis Cocker, Nigel Goodrich, Neil Hannon and the dudes from Air will meet you in the studio quicker than you can say "Lemon Incest." Which just makes it all the more puzzling why the critically acclaimed star of Lars Von Trier's Antichrist would settle for working with Scientology poster boy Beck and his dad, string-arranging thetan David Campbell. Could she be completely unaware of Battlefield Earth?
In any case, listening to IRM (Because/Warner) [French for MRI which relates to the treatment Gainsbourg received for a brain hemorrhage following a 2007 water-skiing accident], the reason for Serge-fan Beck's involvement seems to be that since his study tech hasn't yet given him the power of raising the dead, the next best thing to recording with his idol would be collaborating with his daughter. You know, kinda like Elvis-nut Nicholas Cage marrying Lisa Marie Presley for four months. 
So our boy Beck writes the music, scripts the vocals, assembles the players while the game Gainsbourg immerses herself in the dual roles of surrogate Serge and Jane (some seductive whispering here, a little talk-singing there) while Campbell provides the appropriate string accompaniment a la Jean-Claude Vannier. It's not hard to imagine Beck putting on a copy of Melody Nelson before Gainsbourg went into the both to put down her vocals for Le Chat du Café des Artistes and saying "we're going for something like this..." To her credit, she nails it.

As a Charlotte Gainsbourg recording, the patchy IRM comes across more like a quirky Beck cut-n-paste vanity project with his goofy-surreal lyrical twists delivered by guest singer. As such, it doesn't really build on the promise of her impressive 5:55 breakthrough of 2006.
Nevertheless IRM still makes for an oddly fascinating Beck homage to Serge Gainsbourg's classic recordings of the late 60s and early 70s – not unlike what he's doing with his ongoing Record Club covers series – and Charlotte's presence will forever give him a big one-up on every other Serge tribute.
Rather than wait for the scheduled January, 2010 street date in the US, Warner Music Canada has wisely put out the IRM album this week to coincide with the French release date, stemming a certain influx of import copies in Quebec which probably accounts for 80% of her Canadian sales. 

Heaven Can Wait by Charlotte Gainsbourg with Beck

Charlotte Gainsbourg
Record Club

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