Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Monsieur Gainsbourg Revisited

Last month marked the fifteenth anniversary of the death of the legendary Serge Gainsbourg. I am a big fan, amazed by his ability to change his music - jazz, African rhythms, rock, reggae and pop all get their dues - and by his ability to take on all manner of dodgy subject matter - sex, sex with minors and all kinds of debauchery in between. A French icon, he could do no wrong. It is fascinating stuff, and some of it is beautiful too, with lush arrangements and instrumentation. Last month also brought a tribute album, Monsieur Gainsbourg Revisited. It is a very hip roster of bands taking on some of Serge's classics and rendering them in English. Franz Ferdinand duet with Jane Birkin. Jarvis Cocker croons over a Kid Loco backing track. Portishead rip it up on Requiem For Anna - yes, new Portishead! There's Tricky, Cat Power & Karen Elson, Marc Almond & Trash Palace, The Rakes, The Kills, Placebo, Michael Stipe, Carla Bruni and Faultline & Françoise Hardy. Then there are these two. Marianne Faithfull & Sly & Robbie collaborate on Lola R. Forever, a track from Serge's reggae period. The rhythm is tough as nails - just as you'd expect - and so is the broad talking. Marianne delivers a nice and gritty vocal on this sordid love story. Canada is in the house with Gonzales, Feist & Dani delivering a hip and grooving Boomerang 2005 - nice beat, lovely organ and a tight rap all feature on this. Gainsbourg originally penned Comme Un Boomerang for Dani as France's entry in the 1975 Eurovision song contest, but it was deemed too risqué and not selected. It's also interesting to hear the translations of some of the lyrics - I'm so used to hearing them in the native tongue. This is, IMO, one of the best conceived and constructed tribute albums I have ever heard - highly recommended.

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