Mick Harvey - Delirium Tremens (Songs of Serge Gainsbourg Volume 3) - Albums - Reviews - Soundblab

Mick Harvey - Delirium Tremens (Songs of Serge Gainsbourg Volume 3)

by Rob Taylor Rating:7 Release Date:2016-06-24

The song that Serge Gainsbourg wrote for Alain Bashung, 'J’Envisage' (I envisage) was a deeply pessimistic piece, the main character a prophetic nihilist who [naturally] envisages the worst. The worst of life and love. Mick Harvey’s interpretation of the track is not as demented as Bashung’s, but there’s plenty of dark in Harvey’s soul. Mick Harvey’s new set of Gainsbourg interpretations (his third volume) is called Delirium Tremens, two words that also describe the distressing symptoms experienced by an alcoholic in withdrawal, and ‘I envisage’ is but one track which serves as the aural equivalent of this harrowing journey through physical and emotional pain. 

'L’Homme a Tete De Chou', the title track from a classic Gainsbourg album, and literally translated as ‘The Man With The Cabbage Head’, is here rendered loyally by Mick Harvey, the narrator’s inevitable and doomed prophesy sympathetically unravelled by well controlled but excoriating layers of fuzzed out and distorted guitar. 

Serge Gainsbourg was to music what Michel Houellebecq is to literature, only funnier. This ability to mock himself and to parody life and love is what made his themes palatable. Arguably. On 'SS C’est Bon' from Rock Around the Bunker, Gainsbourg controversially pilloried the Third Reich and its extermination programme. Some say in a flippant manner … "So These Senseless Assassins / An Assassin’s Association / Since the Anschluss these suckers / Exsanguinate the sweet Jew / SS c’est Bon c’est bon c’est Bon (It’s all good) …. In Auschwitz south east Katowitz / Ze System was Ze Best / C’est Bon C’est Bon C’est Bon"  Mick Harvey loyally delivers the tone of the song as parody, but probably not as convincingly as a hedonistic French Jew. Sardonic is what Gainsbourg did best. Harvey’s vocal style is more tenebrous. 

Mick Harvey still delivers Gainsbourg's narratives persuasively, except on the confectionary ‘Coffee Colour’ a lighter style of Gainsbourg song where Harvey seems uncomfortably positioned, the track calling for humour above all else. 

‘Deadly Tedium’ mixes cool jazz with the narrator’s emotionally blunted take on his relationship …. Of course there's nothing to say / when we’re horizontal / but we don’t have anything to say / when we’re vertical / so to kill the time / between some sex and the next / I take my newspaper and biro / and I fill in the As and Os. Mick Harvey’s masculine disposition adds gravitas to the track rather than facetiousness. 

You may make more comparisons. Despite some reservations, I love Gainsbourg, and I found this set of his songs, for the most part, professionally executed and pretty entertaining.




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