posted on October 15, 2009 19:00
The major French music news these days is the return of Charlotte Gainsbourg. The Palme d'Or-winning actress is currently working on an album called 'IRM' in Los Angeles with Beck, and this week the title track has been made available on her website and by promo copy.
You may recall that Gainsbourg's previous album, the excellent '5:55' that came out in 2006, was made in collaboration with Air, Jarvis Cocker, Neil Hannon and Nigel Godrich. And the strings on that record, evoking those on the classic singles by Charlotte's old fella, were arranged by David Campbell, who is the father of Beck Hansen. (The Frenchwoman surely wins any 'my da's more famous than yours' debates that spring up in the studio.)
With a new collaborator comes a new direction. Where the lush and melodic '5:55' sounded like a Serge tribute album, with all parties repaying their debt to the great man, 'IRM' seems to tip its hat to The Beatles and their more experimental moments. Like 'Tomorrow Never Knows' or George's Indian-influenced songs, it's mainly in one chord and features a mantra-style vocal delivery and pounding basic rhythm. The lyrics are Lennon-esque in their visual quality and even drop in a reference to 'Glass Onion': as Charlotte explains in this short preview video the song was inspired when she was having MRI scans (in French, IRM) during treatment to remove a brain tumour in 2007.
Unfortunately, the track is boring, self-indulgent stuff. At times Charlotte lapses into a nagging whine that sounds like Dolores O'Riordan, which is a low point in any singer's career. And God rest poor George but everyone always skips over his Indian songs and with good reason. (Has anyone ever listened in full more than once to 'Within You Without You' on 'Sgt Pepper'?)
The first single, 'Heaven Can Wait', will be released on 19 October, and the album is down for release before the end of this year. We still think Charlotte is ultra-cool so let's hope the rest of the record is better than its title song. She's a neighbour of your correspondent: it'd be embarrassing to not like her album and then run into her in the queue at the bakery. (It's a better class of problem than having badly-dressed Rathmines bedsit singer-songers corner you in Whelans.)
You can listen to the track 'IRM' on Charlotte Gainsbourg's MySpace. Should you wish to buy it, head over to her website. Here's a homemade video for 'IRM':