Music review: Dark topics and slick club vibes



Charlotte Gainsbourg

Because Music

4 stars

In art and life, Charlotte Gainsbourg is a poster child for borderless creativity - and the perfect response to Brexiters. The daughter of French singer Serge Gainsbourg and English actress Jane Birkin, she is a contrarian darling, revelling in tough roles in the works of Danish film-maker Lars von Trier (Antichrist, 2009; Melancholia, 2011) and genre-erasing albums such as her celebrated 2017 disco-funk record Rest, which addresses the deaths of her father and her half-sister Kate Barry.

Take 2 is her latest EP produced by SebastiAn, the electronic whiz who also co-helmed Rest and Frank Ocean's last album Blonde.

In theme and musical direction, it continues the counter-play between dark, unflinching subject and slick club vibes.

The first single, Such A Remarkable Day, is a dance doozie with escalating synths and starlit keys and you would blithely bob along, only to realise midway that she is singing about the death of a woman, likely a victim of violence or a freedom fighter.

"Hope she was carried in ecstasy/Calmly defiant may she rest in peace," she purrs in a determined wisp.

Bombs Away is equally infectious, a light-as-air dance anthem belying an unexpected post-apocalyptic scenario where "Babylon's burning and a dynasty ends/ Enemies, enemies will never be friends". "Bombs away," she sings, alluding to "Gomorrah", "old Victoria" and a certain contemporary authoritarian-leaning statesman from across the Atlantic pond.

Her live version of Deadly Valentine, the masterpiece taken from Rest, is elevated to an epic near-eight-minute catharsis as she deadpans the wedding vow to macabre effect.

Her wonderful monotone is especially excellent in a live cover of Kanye West's Runaway. The rapper's self-reflexive commentary on fatal machismo and its impact on gender relationships is transformed by Gainsbourg into a bald confession about her own foibles. "Let's have a toast for the douchebags… Let's have a toast for the scumbags," she intones, never missing a beat.

"Never was much of a romantic/I could never take the intimacy," she comes clean, the song stripped into its most lonesome riff as it rings in the cavernous venue.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 03, 2019, with the headline 'Dark topics and slick club vibes'. Print Edition | Subscribe