Albums Of The Week

New life for old tunes

Intoxicated Women is Mick Harvey's (above) fourth and final album focused on Serge Gainsbourg's music.
Intoxicated Women is Mick Harvey's (above) fourth and final album focused on Serge Gainsbourg's music.PHOTO: L.J.SPRUYT

Mick Harvey pours his style and personality into French pop icon Serge Gainsbourg's music

With his ninth album, Intoxicated Women, Australian singer, multiinstrumentalist and composer Mick Harvey closes the circle that began with his much vaunted 1995 solo debut, Intoxicated Man.

Like that album, the new release features his unique interpretations of 1960s songs written by the late Serge Gainsbourg, and is Harvey's fourth and final album focused on the French pop music icon's works.

Even the album cover is a cheeky throwback to Intoxicated Man, with Harvey looking inebriated in an almost similar lounge/bar setting, albeit now with greying hair and face streaked with significantly more wrinkles.

Like the previous three volumes, these are no mere faithful covers. Harvey pours enough of his personality and style into the work to breathe new life into the four-decades-old tunes.

    • ALTERNATIVE ROCK/ CLASSIC POP

    • Intoxicated Women is Mick Harvey's (above) fourth and final album focused on Serge Gainsbourg's music.INTOXICATED WOMEN

      Mick Harvey

      Mute

      4/5 stars

There is much of that brass and bluster that marks the alternative rock elder's works with compatriot Nick Cave in pioneering Australian bands such as The Boys Next Door, The Birthday Party and Nick Cave And The Bad Seeds.

At the same time, Harvey's interpretations, featuring impeccable musicianship from regular collaborators such as fellow multi-instrumentalist J.P. Shilo, retain the sensuality of Gainsbourg's originals.

This is best exemplified by the stylish album-opener, in which he takes one of the Frenchman's most famous tunes - Je T'aime... (Moi Non Plus) - and gives it a German overhaul, renaming it Ich Liebe Dich... (Ich Dich Auch Nicht).

His rendition, featuring German singer Andrea Schroeder's breathy vocals in place of Jane Birkin's voice in the 1969 edition, has plenty of bluster yet loses none of the original's sensuousness.

Like the musicians, his choice of international singers is on point and, like Schroeder, each brings his or her own distinctive take to the tunes.

Cambodian singer Channthy Kak from Cambodian Space Project injects some Khmer singing in Contact, originally sung by Brigitte Bardot; while Harvey duets with his son, Solomon, on the infectiously swinging Baby Teeth, Wolfy Teeth (Dents De Lait, Dents De Loup).

Harvey, who incidentally was in Singapore to perform with another of his acclaimed collaborators, British singer-songwriter PJ Harvey (no relation) at the Esplanade Theatre a week before this release, dug deep into Gainsbourg's diverse catalogue.

So it is not just the obvious hits, but also the obscure gems that are revitalised.

Baby Teeth, Wolfy Teeth (Dents De Lait, Dents De Loup) and The Drowned One (La Noyee), for example, are so rare that the only recorded versions that exist were from Gainsbourg's television appearances.

Harvey's dedication in uncovering such esoteric fare is another reason this is one covers album to savour.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 25, 2017, with the headline 'New life for old tunes'. Print Edition | Subscribe