Charlotte Gainsbourg - 5.55

by Rich Morris Rating: Release Date:

Even without Charlotte Gainsbourg's musical heritage, the prospect of an album written and performed by Air, with lyrics by Jarvis Cocker (ex-Pulp) and Neil Hannon (The Divine Comedy) would be enough to entice most sensible music fans. But as a combination, 5.55 is far better than probably even the participants imagined it would be.

The combination of Air's trademark glide complements Gainsbourg's voice (which is less singing and more melodic, breathy recitation), to the point where, had the lyrical input been less than stellar, this could easily have sent the listener to sleep. Instead, the emotional detachment in Gainsbourg's delivery acts as a foil to the passion presented in the lyrics. For their part, Cocker and Hannon excel with their trademark darkly humourous input- the passenger on a doomed flight in "AF407105", the surgery/seduction metaphor in "The Operation", or the venomous "Jamais" being particular standouts.

Even though 5.55 bears all the hallmarks of its creators (if so inclined, one could see this as a new Air album, or imagine Cocker or Hannon singing the lyrics), it's even more than the sum of its parts and is almost certainly one of the best albums you'll hear in 2006 or beyond. --Thom Allott

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