Charlotte Gainsbourg – IRM

January 01, 1970



If there was one thing the last couple of Beck albums so
clearly indicated (not to mention his ill-advised “record club”, which finds
Mr. Hansen and some of his trendy pals doing full album covers of such famous
works as The Velvet Underground and Nico,
Leonard Cohen’s Songs of Leonard Cohen and
Skip Spence’s Oar), it’s the fact
that the man was in dire need of some kind of new creative conduit. And through
actress Charlotte Gainsbourg, whose late, great father Serge is one of the
chameleon-like modern rockist’s  most prominent inspirational touchstones, Beck seems to
have found a creative muse as the chief producer for Gainsbourg’s
third album, IRM.  


By crafting a bed of some of his warmest and most inventive
arrangements since Mutations, Hansen
provides the most comfortable setting for Charlotte’s
singing to date. Which is important, because the 38-year-old ingénue is
addressing some highly personal matters on IRM,
which is MRI spelled backwards and offers a clue to do the depth of the
material featured across these 14 songs, written shortly after a 2007
water-skiing accident forced her to undergo several magnetic resonance imaging
tests to locate and diagnose a brain hemorrhage. The title track even features
a beat looped from an actual MRI, which finds Gainsbourg starkly addressing her
accident with a frantic balance of girl-group panache and deadpan
expressionism. On “Looking Glass Blues”, she uses Beck’s heavy Graham Central
Station-cum-Led Zeppelin groove to further extrapolate upon her mindset during
this time as well. But the finest moments of IRM happen when the nerves are a bit calmer, particularly when
Gainsbourg switches from English to French as she does so brilliantly on tracks
like “Le Chat Du Café Des Artistes” and “La Collectionneuse”, a pair of tunes
that perhaps serves as the most explicit indication that she is her father’s
daughter since “Lemon Incest”.  


It would be really cool if for her next album, Charlotte would sing
exclusively in her native tongue. So long as Beck, whose stellar production
here one can only hope will be a sign of things to come for his own career,
remains at the controls, of course.


“Le Chat Du Café Des Artistes”, “Vanities”, “Trick Pony”,
“Looking Glass Blues” RON HART


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