"Monsieur Gainsbourg Revisited"

"Monsieur Gainsbourg Revisited" (Barclay)
Various Artists

This star-heavy tribute to France's notorious singer-songwriter comes out 15 years after his death. Attempting to spread the love overseas, the record's producers had everything translated, unfortunately proving that while music is a universal language, Gainsbourg's meticulously crafted lyrics are not. However, what is evident is his musical scope and understanding of the human spirit. Most musicians here succeed: Karen Elson duets dreamily with Cat Power on "I Love You, Me Either"; Tricky infuses the soft-porn score "Au Revoir, Emmanuelle" with trip-hop; Marianne Faithfull nails "Lola R. for Ever," Gainsbourg's reggae ode to a Jamaican lover, with her customary know-it-all drawl; and Michael Stipe's low-voiced shame in the seedy "l'Htel" is perfect. Fittingly for the old provocateur, the most accomplished songs are the most punk. On "Just a Man with a Job," the Rakes capture the fraught repetition and existential crisis of Gainsbourg's subway inspector; and on "Sorry Angel," Franz Ferdinand (with Serge's original muse, Jane Birkin, on backing vocals) intensify the defensive arrogance and pity he intended for the girl who killed herself for him. Not a starting point, but a good cheat sheet for the genius of Serge Gainsbourg.

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