Clash (magazine) - "[T]here's a real mix of things going on here, from relaxed fun laced with irony through to quirky takes on love songs full of the louche suggestiveness befitting of the most ardent romantic."
Audio Mixer: Lindsay Gravina.
Recording information: Birdland, Melbourne (10/2015); Candy Bomber, Berlin (10/2015); CBE Paris (10/2015); Grace Lane, Melbourne (10/2015); Birdland, Melbourne (11/2015); Candy Bomber, Berlin (11/2015); CBE Paris (11/2015); Grace Lane, Melbourne (11/2015).
Translator: Mick Harvey.
In 2014, Mute celebrated the 20th anniversary of Mick Harvey's Serge Gainsbourg project Intoxicated Man, along with its 1997 companion, Pink Elephants. They were groundbreaking. He was the first to render authoritative musical translations of Gainsbourg's notoriously difficult, pun-laden, alliterative lyrics in English, complete with rhymes. No less a Gainsbourg interpreter than the composer's muse and partner, Jane Birkin, credited Harvey's records with providing her with the ability to tour Australia, the U.K., and the United States. While Harvey was rehearsing his band's tour to celebrate the reissues, the idea for Delirium Tremens was conceived.
This 12-song set (pared from 19) was recorded in Australia and Berlin. String charts were once again handled by Bertrand Burgalat. The chronological range of the material is vast. Thunderous opener "The Man with the Cabbage Head" is the title track from a 1976 concept album about a man so obsessed with a dancer, he murders her and ends up in an asylum. Harvey's swelling church organ is given dimension by J.P. Shilo's squalling guitar. "Deadly Tedium" (1958) is framed in loungey jazz and highlighted by drummer Toby Dammit's excellent vibraphone playing. "Cafe Colour" (1964) combines tropical, Latin, and jazz rhythms. Shilo adds a ye-ye-style accordion as a female backing chorus lends a breezy feel to the melody. "The Convict's Song" (1967), from a television score, is a choogling drone-blues that reflects Harvey's membership in -- and musical direction for -- Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds. "SS C'est Bon" (1975) is one of the composer's more controversial songs about fascism and Nazism. Gainsbourg, a Ukrainian-Belgian Jew, grew up during the occupation of France in WWII. His lyrics are drenched in irony. Harvey's take contains a nearly industrial undercurrent with militaristic drumming, male chants, and a deliberately absurd faux-operatic female chorus. "I Envisage" was a a co-write with Alain Bashung, and recorded by him on 1982's wonderful Play Blessures. The arrangement here is tense, brooding, and doomy. Harvey's work with Crime and the City Solution on 1989's The Bride Ship immediately comes to mind. There are five songs from Anna, a 1967 television movie Gainsbourg scored that starred Anna Karina and featured her vocals. This set's first single, "A Day Like Any Other," find Harvey singing with Xanthe Waite (Terry, the Amber Lights) amid piano, guitars, and dreamy strings. The set closer is "The Decadance, a duet single from 1971 between the songwriter and Birkin. Harvey reprises it with his own life partner, artist Katy Beale. The music is processional, nearly liturgical, framed by organ, snares, and cymbals with accents of slide guitar and almost regal strings. When juxtaposed with the erotic poetry in the lyrics, spirit and flesh are woven together inexorably. The presentation reveals both the scandal intended by the songwriter and the astute philosophical assertion in the song's core. Like its predecessors, Harvey's canny charts, arresting dynamics, and deliberate, reverb-laden production provide the glue for Delirium Tremens. Gainsbourg's work is now often recorded in English, but Harvey remains one of his finest interpreters. ~ Thom Jurek