Tuesday, 31 January 2017

Album of the Month: INTOXICATED WOMEN by Mick Harvey

You know how sometimes an artist tells you that fame doesn't mean anything and you just roll your eyes. Oh please. In one of my favourite stories from Martin Amis's Experience, the author gets asked by his son if he would agree to have written everything he has but with no fame attached. To which Amis says, well, 'what would be the point of that?' With years you come to realise that there's no cynicism in his answer. That's just the way it is. 

Which makes it all the more exciting to say that Mick Harvey doesn't care about fame. Never has. You can watch any old footage of him alongside Nick Cave or Blixa Bargeld to know that. Mick Harvey has always been this amazingly talented man who just wanted to be there. To play whichever instrument he chose to play. To produce. To write. To interpret. But mostly - to just be part of world's creative process.     

This album is the fourth, and final, installment of Harvey's interpretations of Serge Gainbourg's music. There was Intoxicated Man back in 1995. Pink Elephants in 1997. Delirium Tremens last year. All brilliant, all brimming with erotic understatement and melodic sensibilities that Gainsbourg made his name on. 

Now it's Intoxicated Women and we kick off with a German take on "Je t'aime... moi non plus". 

Seconds in, you get reminded that Mick Harvey is the perfect interpreter of Serge Gainsbourg. He imagines the great Frenchman as a folk balladeer ("PrĂ©vert's Song"), religious provocateur ("God Smokes Havanas"), salacious seducer ("Striptease"), decadent romantic ("The Drowned One") and quite simply one of the best songwriters of his time ("Sensuelle et Sans Suite" is morning coffee, pure sex, a favourite cocktail you drank last night). 

Intoxicated Women has barely been noticed by critics and audiences alike. Normally, I would be going mad about great talents getting so little recognition (mind, Delirium Tremens was one of the best albums of 2016), but in Mick Harvey's case it's just a great artist doing great art. No more and no less. Intoxicated Women is fantastic no matter how many people get to hear it and no matter what fame says. It's the best album of January, easily.