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Monsieur Gainsbourg Revisited

Monsieur Gainsbourgh Revisited

Review by Jack Foley

IndieLondon Rating: 3.5 out of 5

SERGE Gainsbourg is one of the most iconic figures of 20th century France, though his fame has long spread beyond those borders.

Probably best known for his controversial Je T’aime Moi Non Plus (I Love You (Me Either)) that topped the UK charts before being banned by the BBC in 1969, the influence of the French performer continues to reach and inspire new artists.

It’s little wonder that this tribute album has managed to draw such an impressive list of collaborators – from Franz Ferdinand and The Rakes to Portishead, Placebo and Michael Stipe.

The release of Monsieur Gainsbourgh Revisited commemorates the death of the artist 15 years ago on March 2, 1991 and marks the first time that Gainsbourg’s lyrics have been officially translated into English.

Hence, most tracks succeed in casting new light on old classics while providing noteworthy re-imaginings of old faithfuls. Needless to say, there are also as many misses as hits.

Michael Stipe’s spoken take on L’Hôtel, complete with a sombre piano underscore, is one of the misfires – but by no means a disaster.

While model Carla Bruni’s Those Little Things draws things to an odd close.

The album is worth owning for several reasons, though. It may well bring a new generation to Gainsbourgh’s dark work, while offering some of the most prominent bands of the moment the chance to sink their teeth into something a little bit different.

Franz Ferdinand seize the opportunity with their fired up and, yes, angular version of A Song For Sorry Anger, with Jane Birkin, while Cat Power and Karen Elson team up well to provide a memorable version of I Love You (Me Either) that brings with it a welcome sense of familiarity.

Better still is Portishead’s supremely atmospheric version of Requiem For Anna, complete with a driving central riff, sultry vocals and an outstanding beat, that marks their first recording in several years. It’s a worthwhile return guaranteed to please the fans.

The distinct vocals of Placebo’s Brian Molko combine well with Faultline’s haunting beats and electronic flourishes on Requiem For A Jerk (which also features Francoise Hardy).

And there’s a strangely addictive reggae-tinged vibe surrounding Marianne Faithful and Sly and Robbie’s take on Lola R vor ever, a seductive tale of a dominatrix.

Fans of emerging bands The Rakes and The Kills will also want to check out their versions of Just A Man With A Job and I Call It Art respectively which successfully manage to combine the essence of Gainsbourgh with their own vibrant guitar sound.

Throughout, however, Monsieur Gainsbourgh Revisited provides listeners with a form of cover version that’s worth hearing.

The tracks contained within are no mere retreads but carefully constructed reinterpretations that update and pay homage to the original in mostly excellent fashion.

Even those that may not have heard of Gainsbourgh previously will find something to impress.

Track listing:

  1. A Song For Sorry Angel (Franz Ferdinand & Jane Birkin)
  2. I Love You (Me Either) (Cat Power & Karen Elson)
  3. I Just Came To Tell You That I’m Going (Jarvis Cocker & Kid Loco)
  4. Anna (Portishead)
  5. Requiem For A Jerk (Faultline, Brian Molko & Francoise Hardy)
  6. L’Hôtel (Michael Stipe)
  7. Goodbye Emmanuelle (Tricky)
  8. Lola R. For Ever (Marianne Faithful & Sly and Robbie)
  9. Boomerang 2005 (Gonzales, Feist & Dani)
  10. Boy Toy (Marc Almond & Trash Palace)
  11. The Ballad of Melody Nelson (Placebo)
  12. Just A Man With A Job (Just A Man With A Job)
  13. I Call It Art
  14. Those Little Things (Carla Bruni)