Charlotte Gainsbourg, AM | Park West | Rock, Pop, Etc | Chicago Reader

Charlotte Gainsbourg, AM All Ages Early Warnings (Music) Soundboard Recommended Critics' Picks

When: Wed., April 21, 8 p.m. 2010

When Charlotte Gainsbourg was 15, her famous father wrote and produced an album for her, Charlotte for Ever (1986). Since then, however, she's spent most of her career in acting—it can't be easy to go into music when you're Serge Gainsbourg's daughter, doomed to be measured against some of France's most iconic and influential pop songs. Four years ago she gave it a shot, making a pleasant but tentative record called 5:55 with Jarvis Cocker and Air; the songs were all molasses slow, and Gainsbourg, who doesn't have a particularly powerful voice, sang in an anemic whisper, as though she were afraid of drawing attention to herself. On the new IRM (Because/Elektra), though, she breaks out of her shell with help from Beck, who produced the album and wrote most of the material—his fingerprints are clear, especially in the music's patchwork of styles and roomy, roughed-up layers of sound, but a bit of the sinister sexiness of the elder Gainsbourg creeps in too. For her part Charlotte comes across as more than just an enigmatic movie star with a pretty face and a jones to make a pop record. She suggests several different personas by modulating her voice: the breathy, sweet-and-sour sneer on "Master's Hand," the forceful and strangely detached proclamations on "IRM," the gentle but assured French-language cooing on "Le Chat du Cafe des Artistes," the sweetly vulnerable Beatlesque melody on "In the End." And that's just the first four tunes. Gainsbourg only started playing live recently; she's certainly figured out what to do in the studio, and with any luck she'll find her feet onstage quickly. —Peter Margasak


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