New(ish) Music: The Limiñanas and Mick Harvey Serge to Honor Gainsbourg

For a blog created to promote new music (see motto/mission statement above), I have certainly been focusing on a lot of old music lately. So this week I will be highlighting some more recent music I’ve been listening to.

The Limiñanas are a male-female French duo in much the same vein as The Kills, Royal Trux or The White Stripes. Lionel Limiñana sings and plays bass, organ, etc.; Marie Limiñana plays drums and, on occasion, sings.

Actually, Lionel does not so much sing as speak:

Much like the legendary French “singer,” songwriter, filmmaker, etc., Serge Gainsbourg before him, Lionel intones in short, declarative bursts, monotonic, but never monotonous, even if my spotty memory of high school French (which was not learned that well in the first place) does not help me much with the words’ meanings. Of course, I have always responded more to a singer’s voice than to the words being sung.

When Lionel’s wife, Maria, sings, sometimes in English, hers is a breathy, little girl’s voice, . . .

. . . much like Gainsbourg’s then wife, Jane Birkin, sang.

These voices, together or, usually, apart, are presented amid a combination of styles such as French “yé-yé,” the film scores of Jean-Claude Vannier, Gainsbourg’s onetime collaborator, spaghetti western soundtracks and sounds of the ’60s U.S. underground, wrapped in velvet.

Serge Gainsbourg’s and Jane Birkin’s best known song is probably “Je t’aime . . . moi non plus” (“I love you . . . me neither”), . . .

. . . due at least in part to the scandal that climaxed with Birkin’s orgasmic moans and gasps (six years before Donna Summer’s “Love to Love You Baby”; three years after that, Summer covered “Je t’aime . . . moi non plus”).

Mick Harvey leads off his new album with a German version of the same song:

Intoxicated Women is Mick Harvey’s fourth album of English translations of Serge Gainsbourg (the preceding, along with a few verses of “Contact,” is the exception; besides, he did an English version of “Je t’aime” on the second in the series, Pink Elephants).

Harvey has already covered most of the best known Gainsbourg songs, so this time around he has dug a bit deeper for some more obscure treats:

After the initial recordings for ‘Delirium Tremens’ JP Shilo and I continued investigating the duets and female songs, many of which were unknown to me. So it became a voyage of discovery into quite a lot of material I hadn’t heard before. There are even a couple of songs for which the only versions existing from the ’60s are from TV performances Serge gave.

Such as “Baby Teeth, Wolfy Teeth,” with its “96 Tears” organ, . . .

. . . based on Gainsbourg’s TV appearance with one of the most successful “yé-yé” girls, France Gall:

Over the past 20+ years, Mick Harvey has helped increase Gainsbourg’s renown in the English-speaking world, spreading the cult of the French artist. Which makes it all the more appropriate that the last track of Harvey’s longtime Serge Gainsbourg project should be “Cargo Cult” from Gainsbourg’s masterpiece, Histoire de Melody Nelson:

Au revoir, Serge.

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