Fair play to Bad Seeds’ Mick Harvey; he’s made plenty of good music in his time, so if he wants to scratch an itch and revisit the songbook of Serge Gainsbourg, he can. Like Nick Cave’s band, Gainsbourg sounded cool but could talk dirty, so Harvey is paying tribute to a man who influenced his own sound.
The music falls into two types. There’s music that sounds like it’s from a French movie about life on the Riviera for the swinging set; all slick jazz and vibraphones, and there’s music that sounds like a demo for a Bad Seeds album, raucous and lascivious.
The opener, however, is a psychedelic oddity, The Man With the Cabbage Head, and it’s a mix of swirling rock and the spoken word. Deadly Tedium is jazzier, slightly too dark for a cool movie starring Dirk Bogarde, although Coffee Colour could be; it’s a song about, one assumes, a coffee-coloured lover of Gainsbourg. The Convict Song, on the other hand, gets the full Bad Seeds treatment and it’s one of the standouts. The song that sums up the album is his cover of Est-ce Est-ce Si Bon, transmogrified into the punning SS C’est Bon, with guttural vocals, a Teutonic anthem in the middle and a thunderous piano. It’s amusing enough and clever, but only the first time. After that it grates. This is probably an album for completist fans of Harvey and those who like a touch of the burlesque in their music.