Mick Harvey - Intoxicated Women - Albums - Reviews - Soundblab

Mick Harvey - Intoxicated Women

by Kevin Orton Rating:8 Release Date:2017-02-17

The late great Serge Gainsbourg was a mad cross between Cole Porter and the Marquise de Sade. Back in the mid 90’s however, many outside of France had never heard of him.  

My introduction to Gainsbourg came via Mick Harvey’s 1995 tribute album, Intoxicated Man. For the first time, Gainsbourg’s delicious word play was presented in English. Owing to my deficit in the French language department, it was an eye opener.  Luckily, I was jumping on the Gainsbourg bandwagon at the right time. Harvey’s album opened the door to a treasure trove of Gainsbourg imports and reissues. Soon, Historie de Melody Nelson was being namechecked by every hipster and music snob in town.

Suffice to say, because of Mick Harvey, I’m a lifelong fan of Serge Gainsbourg.

In 1997 Harvey followed up Intoxicated Man with the equally satisfying, Pink Elephants. Last year, Harvey unassumingly dropped a third installment, Delirium Tremens. Now, we have the fourth and final, Intoxicated Women.

While he is best known for his work with Nick Cave (Birthday Party/Bad Seeds), Harvey has never been one to take center stage. Behind the scenes however, he was instrumental. For years, Harvey kept the Bad Seeds afloat not only musically but business wise. Finally, with Intoxicated Man, Harvey decided to step out of the shadows and behind the mic. As it turns out, he’s quite a crooner.   

Throughout this series, it’s not just the translations that are remarkable, but the performances as well. Harvey’s aim isn’t worshipful mimicry or meticulous reproduction of previously recorded material. He doesn’t just cover these songs, he inhabits them. With wit and passion.

Intoxicated Women kicks off with a German version of the Gainsbourg classic, ‘Je T'aime Moi Non Plus’. I confess, its somewhat redundant considering Harvey already cut the song in English on Pink Elephants with Nick Cave and Anita Lane. Here, Harvey takes up vocal duties himself with the very talented, Andrea Schroeder.

This time around, Harvey hands off much of the vocal duties to his lovely chanteuses. Thus, the album title. Schroeder delivers on every track she’s on, including the wickedly feminist, ‘Striptease’. On the ‘The Homely Ones’ however, I found Xanthe Waite’s performance a touch cloying and insipid making it one of the album’s weakest cuts, along with ‘Baby Teeth, Wolfy Teeth’. Likewise, ‘Contact’ wears out its welcome. I realize the point is to be robotic and repetitive but feel the song is best experienced via the original Brigette Bardot video.  

Highlights include the wry, melodic, ‘All Day Suckers’. And I’d been hoping Harvey would get around to cutting the haunting, ‘Prevért’s Song’. The sumptuous humor of ‘God Smokes Havanas’ is irresistible. ‘Lost Lovers’ and its brooding guitars remind me of ‘Stranger Than Kindness’ off the Bad Seeds’ Your Funeral, My Trial. ‘The Drowned One’ featuring Jess Ribeiro, is one of the finer duets on the album. ‘Cargo Cult’ with its fuzzy, demonic guitars is a positively epic send off. It’s enough to make me pine for an all English version of Historie de Melody Nelson.

Despite any personal preferences in terms of song selection, Harvey’s Gainsbourg albums are a priceless introduction to one of the greatest songwriters of the 20th Century. A tribute as witty, savvy and literate as the old roué himself. Intoxicated Women is no exception.

 

 

 

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