Charlotte Gainsbourg: Stage Whisper (Because Music/Elektra) | Under the Radar - Music Magazine
Friday, December 13th, 2019  

Charlotte Gainsbourg

Stage Whisper

Elektra

Nov 08, 2011 Web Exclusive Bookmark and Share


In both facets of her career, actress/singer Charlotte Gainsbourg has made a living bringing other people's visions to life. Given her broad range of collaborators-which have included Air, Beck, Jarvis Cocker, and Neil Hannon-it makes sense that any collection of her music would sound a bit schizophrenic. To avoid outright auditory whiplash, Stage Whisper is wisely divided into two halves-unreleased songs and live versions of tracks from previous albums. However, it's still a very uneven ride.

The majority of the previously unreleased songs find Gainsbourg successfully riding the vibe Goldfrapp tapped into with Headfirst-all breathy vocals and Italo disco attitude. But with Gainsbourg it's all a matter of positioning, her voice not unlike the tofu of the musical world-soaking up the seasoning around her. The same spunk that carries "Terrible Angels" and turns "Paradisco" into an otherworldly treat simply sounds dated on 1980s faux folk-electro cut "Got to Let Go"-a song that would have been better suited to a Noah and the Whale album. 

The most notable departure in the first half is "Memoir," a guitar-driven collaboration with Villagers that was previously released as a 7". The track leans heavily on Gainsbourg's superb skills as a storyteller, and she sells the tale of a lost woman with breathtaking believability.  

Alas, the same cannot be said for the second half of the album, a live rehash of tracks from 5:55 and IRM. Ultimately, Gainsbourg on stage proves what we've suspected all along: that she's created her music career with studio magic. Live, her voice-so haunting when paired with Air's delicate orchestrations, and so playful within Beck's framework-simply falls flat. She exonerates herself nicely on the Bob Dylan cover "Just Like a Woman" (the song's lilting structure works perfectly with her elaborate sing-speech). But the rock-based tracks of IRM are a stretch, as the sultry elements of Gainsbourg's voice are stretched to an unbecoming shriek. It's a nice try, but the collection proves that ultimately, Gainsbourg shines more in the studio than on the stage. (www.charlottegainsbourg.com)

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