Charlotte Gainsbourg – IRM (Because Music)

A recent post on the Fast Forward Weekly blog talked about the pointlessness of discussing an artist’s authenticity, and Charlotte Gainsbourg’s latest, IRM, is a perfect example. For the less than charitable, it’d be easy to dwell on Gainsbourg’s seemingly minimal contribution to the third album to bear her name, co-writing one of the songs and leaving the rest of the writing duties to her friend Beck.

If IRM didn’t emerge wholly from Gainsbourg’s mind, though, it certainly sounds like a personal work. Beck has done an incredible job tailoring his material to the singer, both personally — the title track, which is French for MRI, stems from the discovery of a blood clot in Gainsbourg’s brain — and musically, as on an arrangement of Jean Ferland and Michael Robidoux’s “Le Chat du Cafe des Artistes” that recalls Gainsbourg’s father, sex-obsessed singer Serge Gainsbourg.

Beck’s personality comes through, too, particularly on the one song Gainsbourg co-wrote, the poppy “Greenwich Mean Time,” which could’ve come from the same sessions that produced “Girl.” Elsewhere, the disc moves from industrial clank to laid-back T. Rex grooves, the one constant throughout being Gainsbourg’s detached vocal presence. She may not be the mastermind, but her personality is what holds IRM together.

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