Jan 27, 2010 Issue #29 - Year End 2009 - Best of the Decade
As an actress, Charlotte Gainsbourg has made a career by placing herself in the hands of collaborators. In 2006, she took that theory into the studio for the first time in 20 years, working with Air, Jarvis Cocker, and Neil Hannon to create dreamy sophomore album 5:55. Now, four years later, Gainsbourg is back with a little help from a friend—this time, Beck.
Predicated by Gainsbourg's close encounters with an MRI machine after an accident left her with a brain hemorrhage, her new collaboration IRM (French for MRI) confirms that she's nothing if not a ready and willing piece of clay. Beck's fingerprints aren't just present on the surface of the album; they've burrowed down, sculpting an outing saturated with reverb and percussion left over from The Information, string arrangements from his father David Campbell, and ennui on loan from Mutations. However, unlike Beck's scattershot catalog, Gainsbourg's distinctive voice provides a unifying force, tying together a collection of seemingly disparate songs.
IRM is a multi-genre journey; Gainsbourg takes the listener though a host of influences: paying homage to father Serge Gainsbourg's Histoire de Melody Nelson on the French language "Le Chat du Cafe des Artistes," getting her Bob Dylan on in folk-tinged "Dandelion," and out-Becking Beck during duet "Heaven Can Wait." While her breathy sing-speak holds up incredibly well in the more intimate moments of "La Collectionneuse" and "Time of the Assassins," it occasionally gets lost in the atmospherics—particularly in the over-filtered "Greenwich Mean Time." However, her ability to rise above the fray in tracks such as attention-grabbing, MRI sampling, title track "IRM," and beat-heavy "Trick Pony," speaks to Gainsbourg's powers of interpretation—equal parts father Serge, mother Jane Birkin, and the summation of Gallic chic. Approaching music as a role rather than means of personal expression, Gainsbourg has—once again—turned in an Oscar-worthy performance. (www.charlottegainsbourg.com)
Author rating: 8/10
Average reader rating: 8/10