Tuesday, May 02, 2006

On Mick Harvey

I neglected to mention in my previous post, On Covering Gainsbourg, that Bad Seed Mick Harvey has issued two albums of English-language Gainsbourg covers. I remember hearing The Intoxicated Man on KCMU upon its release in 1995. (Pink Elephants arrived two years later.) At the time, I wasn't too familiar with the original material. I liked what I heard.

I'm not sure what I'd think now that I've absorbed more of Gainsbourg's work. Sylvie Simmons (A Pocketful of Gitanes) claims that Harvey's translations are some of the best, i.e. they come closest to the author's original intent. The idea of translating them at all still bugs me. Once I've had time to give both a listen, I'll post my thoughts. What I'm looking for is this: Is Harvey able to make the English thing work, in a way Cat Power and Karen Elson weren't, or did he--artistically, rather than commercially--compromise the integrity of his tribute by changing the lyrics?

Endnote: Part three in "On Covering Gainsbourg." Image from the AMG (Joe Dilworth credited). The Amazon listing for Intoxicated Man notes that "customers who bought this album also bought" Gainsbourg's Histoire de Melody Nelson and Jane Birkin et Serge Gainsbourg, so it isn't just Harvey/Nick Cave fans snapping up these discs. And if they're heading for Gainsbourg after hearing Harvey, I think it's fair to say he's done more good than harm!

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