Charlotte Gainsbourg - IRM

Alex Nelson 05/02/2010

Rating: 4/5

When I first heard Charlotte Gainsbourg, star of such films as Antichrist and The Science Of Sleep, was working on a new album, I braced myself for a bundle of pretensions in line with the similarly circumstanced 2001 album from Brigitte Fontaine, Kekeland (the tracks Demi Clocharde and Kekeland withstanding, which this reviewer feels obliged to admire due to their Sonic Youth collaborating connections). When I heard Beck was acting as producer and co-writer, my interests towards the record soon gravitated.

Opening with Master's Hand, a cornucopia of tuneful percussion and acoustic guitar heartbeats, Beck's influence over this album quickly becomes apparent. Indeed, it rapidly presents itself to the listener as basically a Beck album with a different vocalist, Gainsbourg's 'hey hey hey's of the first track lending themselves to Information-era tunes such as Think I'm In Love which fans of the American singer-songwriter-multi-instrumentalist-musician troubadour will no doubt lap up with glee. This is in no way a bad thing, and I for one welcome it with open arms.

Charlotte's sultry and deeply pronounced vocals permeate the record, on tracks such as IRM, where the sounds of an actual IRM machine (IRM being the French acronym for MRI, perhaps the same MRI machine used upon Gainsbourg after she suffered a brain haemorrhage following a water-skiing accident, the experiences of which are heavily prevalent on this record) are used to provide the whir-and-hum backbone of the song.

Songs such as Trick Pony, with its slack fudged bass roots and scatological guitar wails, and Greenwich Mean Time, with its lo-fi take on taught string abuse and Gainsbourg's childishly misconstrue vocals ('We're all fine, we're all fine/We fit together like worms on a line'), provide highlights amongst a treasure trove of musical styles. Dandelion procures a bluesy rock 'n' roll swagger, and Me And Jane Doe a folksy, whimsical talking point of tales of crossing deserts and exploring new lands.

All in all, this album is a surprisingly yet refreshingly headstrong effort. Fans of Charlotte's early works will no doubt be impressed by this release, and this is equally true with fans of any of Beck's work, as his work is especially apparent also.