Thursday, May 18, 2006

Monsieur Gainsbourg Revisited

You'd think I'd be more excited about an album of Gainsbourg covers by the likes of Jarvis Cocker, Marc Almond, and Portishead. Much like this tribute to the Free Design, I find myself liking it for about twenty minutes but eventually I feel like I'm sitting in a highbrow coffee shop. Fun and adventurous when you're sitting in the sun having a drink, but fairly bleh as far as home listening is concerned. Despite its impressive lineup of beatmakers, including Madlib and PB Wolf, "The Now Sound Redesigned" suffers from too many sterile, friendly hip hop beats. "Monsieur Gainsbourg Revisited" overdoes it on the exotica aspects of Gainsbourg, but is lacking in truly inventive interpretation along the lines of Placebo's electro-funk makeover of "The Ballad of Melody Nelson". Some of these artists have forgotten that Gainsbourg could be queasy and creepy too (I'm looking at YOU, Tricky). In the battle of legendary mumblers (in turn covering a legendary mumbler), Michael Stipe ("L'Hôtel") wipes the floor with Tricky, providing the most faithful Gainsbourg impersonation on this record (truth be told, he's the only one who tries to do such a thing).

In many cases, I can't get past the English translations -- they feel intrusive and ruin the flow of the songs. Particularly Marianne Faithful, the Boomerang gang, and the Rakes version of "Le Poinçonneur Des Lilas" (the cadence of the words sounds ridiculous in English).

Placebo basically steal the show here, first with the aforementioned Gorillaz-y "Melody Nelson" and Brian Molko's sneering vocal on "Requiem For a Jerk".

Franz Ferdinand are a one trick pony and thinking about their shtick leaves me in a constant state of skepticism. Nevertheless, as far as real life is concerned (as opposed to my imagination's slight distaste for their sound and success) I'm usually pleased with the results, and their irresistible dash through "Sorry Angel" is no exception. Most of the words in the song are "sorry" and "angel", so the translations don't get in the way.

I hate the "Je T'aime" translation ("I go and I come / between you" ... between what? This doesn't even make sense grammatically), but Karen Elson and Cat Power sound sublime and overall I'll take it over the more claustrophobic Mick Harvey version. Maybe they can lez up to "Lemon Incest" next!

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