Got a watermarked listening copy of IRM, Charlotte Gainsbourg's (and Beck's, for mr Hansen produced) new album. It's out in December (though this blog says end of November). Here are my first impressions.
Starts off a little oriental, then changes into a Tom Waits-ish (steel percussion, repetitive acoustic guitar, distorted bassdrum) song. Charlotte's voice is barely more than a whisper, melody is like a nursery rhyme. Lyric: 'Breathe out, come to life, give me a reason to feel.' Strings come in, Charlotte wails. Promising intro.
You know this, you can download it for free on Char's site. It rattles, hums and clinks like a MRI-scanner (IRM=MRI in French). Big fat drums, Beck wails with Charlotte. Scary stuff, in a good way.
Le chat du café des artistes
A cover of Canadian singer Jean-Pierre Ferland, a track that in it's original form sounded like an outtake of Histoire de Melody Nelson (although it's from 1970, HdMN came out in '71). It still does, with it's downtempo drums, dramatic strings, freaky guitar and breathy French vocals. Best track on the album.
In the End
Acoustic ditty, with guitar, xylophone and strings. Shortest track on the album (2 minutes). Lyric: 'Who's to say it's all for the best, in the end.' The end of an affair?
Heaven can wait
Ah yes, phat drums again, piano, guitars. This is Beck allright, heck, he even sings with Charlotte. IRM was about Charlotte's MRI-scan (after her accident), this song could be about her surviving the brain hemmorhage. Brass section marches in, it all sounds very folky and upbeat. Lyric: 'And they try to drive that escalator down in the ground.' (Video above)
Me and Jane Doe
Fast bassdrum, but not very prominent. Beck wails, Charlotte nanana's. Doubled-up voice, almost like a drone. Lyric: 'I'd like to unplug the phone, send messages with a mirror.' Could've been a My Brightest Diamond-track.
V-e-r-y s-l-o-w. Charlotte sounds extremely delicate. Hushed strings, that come up in Bernard Hermann-y way. Gentle harp-playing. Almost no lyrics, a song for sweet dreams.
Time of the Assassins
Also the title of a book by Henry Miller on Rimbaud's poetry. And an album by Nickel Creek. Hmm. Starts off acoustic, the chorus has analogs synths, Beck wails and Charlotte swoons. Air could've produced this.
This has Beck written all over it, with big drums, odd effects, surf guitars and a bassdriven groove. Charlotte sings about CC Riders, sexy eyes and, yes, a trick pony. Ah, and there's a black tambourine.
Greenwich Mean Time/Crooked Man
Title is still TBC. Again that growling bass, Charlotte's voice is distorted. Beck joins in the chorus. GMT is mentioned, so is the crooked man. Lyric: 'We're so fine, we fit together like nickels on the dime.' Form over function. Not my most favourite track on the album.
Is this a T-Rex cover? Or is Beck channeling Iggy Pop's Nightclubbing? Great shuffle, Charlotte sounds smoking hot. If I were a stripper, I'd choose this song to take my clothes off too. Because of the strings, it has a big Melody Nelson-feel. Second-best song on the album.
Dramatic strings, rattling drums. Lyrics partly French (Voyage au bout de la nuit, Louis-Ferdinand Céline is quoted?), partly English. Tense track, that gets a bit of air thanks to Charlotte's angelic voice. Dark and sexy.
Some French lyrics, but mostly sung in English. Treated piano, spacey sounds, Melody Nelson-tempo. In the 5.55 vein again, which isn't a bad thing. Plush music like this fit Charlotte's voice best. Strings build and build, Charlotte whispers. Piano goes offkey. Great ending.
So? Solid album. Beck leads Charlotte a few times away from known territory, and most of the time that works. No really bad songs, at least four shining diamonds (IRM, Dandelion, Le chat, La collectioneuse). If you loved 5.55, you won't be disappointed. Beck-fans can rejoice too.
Not on the album, but out on the internet: Charlotte Gainsbourg - IRM (Diskjokke remix)
Plus, the original version of Le chat... and a great cover by darling Andrea:
Jean-Pierre Ferland - Le chat du café des artistes
Andrea Lindsay - Le chat dus café des artistes