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"Intoxicated Man/Pink Elephants"

Release date: 07 April 2014
Mick Harvey – Intoxicated Man/Pink Elephants
03 April 2014, 12:30 Written by Joe Daniels

Mick Harvey, one of alternative music’s great supporting men, offers two albums of translated Serge Gainsbourg classics. The first, Intoxicated Man, initially released in 1995, focuses on the singles that dominated French airwaves for decades. The second, 1997′s Pink Elephants, is a spotlight on some of the more obscure stuff. Both are rich in Gainsbourg’s twin obsessions: America and sex.

The playfulness of Gainsbourg is everywhere on this double reissue. There’s audacious ode to American two-wheelers, “Harley Davidson” which sees the savant, in faux existential despair, declare that ”I think less well of life than of my motorbike”. Listening this time around, the song almost seems a proto-“The Living End” by The Jesus and Mary Chain; a dirging, chugging, overdriven track about bike-freaks who are over driving. For those who prefer their road songs with four wheels, “Ford Mustang” is included.

Mick Harvey - Pink Elephants

“Bonnie & Clyde”, one of Serge’s most iconic songs, jaunts about with just as much bluesy swagger as it needs to. “The Barrel of My 45” oozes the sort of twisted Americana PJ Harvey (another Harvey collaborator) harnessed on her Mercury Prize-winning Tales from the City, Stories from the Sea. “Dr Jeckyll” is bags of fun too, with Harvey’s ghostly husk of a voice adding a dollop of morbidity to the mix.

Frequent collaborators Nick Cave and Anita Lane give a brooding turn on the brilliant “I Love You… Nor Do I”. It’s a typical Gainsbourg love song in that it’s elegant, idyllic, and pervy. The velvet-tongued missive that “You are the wave/And I the naked island” is proceeded by lyrics that’d make Prince blush. “The Ballad of Melodie Nelson”, the central track from Serge’s most controversial album, Le Histoire de Melodie Nelson, raises eyebrows like it used to.

Despite an ambitiously preposterous indie movie (Joann Sfar’s Gainsbourg: A Heroic Live. replete with prosthetic noses), and a burgeoning Hollywood career for his progeny, Gainsbourg’s reputation in the Anglophonic world has never been truly cemented in the mainstream. Though it’s unlikely this reissue will do much to change that, it does offer a chance to appreciate the lustily combative flaneur all over again, and that can only be a good thing.

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