Mick Harvey – Intoxicated women (Mute)

Another absolute joy of an album of Serge Gainsbourg interpretations from the former Bad Seed (his fourth and apparently final), this time focusing mainly on the outstanding but maybe a shade lesser known back catalogue of duets.

It begins with a German language version of ‘Je t’aime (Moin non plus)’. It’s a bold move taking on a nailed on classic first up but there’s no risk really when the material is in such experienced and sympathetic hands. ‘Ich liebe dich (Ich dich auch nicht)’ ranks as one of the all time great Gainsbourg versions, the lead female part taken by the German singer Andrea Schroeder. And I have to say she trumps Jane Birkin in the plausibility stakes, her delivery full of sumptuous exhalations which tail off exquisitely. (Plus those guttural “ch” consonants are all soft and gooey.) Or maybe it’s just that she’s an older woman than Birkin was so her breath seems to carry more meaning, more weight. The effect is not so much sexual as existential and it’s moving to the core.

Plus Mick Harvey’s arrangement, although it retains the iconic organ, guitar stabs and swooning strings, emphasises the elements differently. In particular the dizzying 2 note up and down figure on the strings is much more to the fore than on the original. This works brilliantly, laying out the headrushing disorientating quality of the song from the very start.

There’s a bunch of other wonderful treatments here too featuring a string of sublime female singers – Sophia Brous, Jess Ribeiro, Xanthe Waite and others – mixing English and German and even the original French in places.

Ageless songs in the hands of a master interpreter and arranger. Another complete triumph.


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