A long, long time ago the Australian musical traveller Mick Harvey, took some time away from the gloomy but compelling world of being a “Bad Seed”, to create a couple of minor classics under his own name.
For a person nurtured in the chaotic collisions of his first band The Birthday Party and the moody, malevolent masterpieces of Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds, it was surprising to find that he was undertaking a journey into the kitsch, although sometimes, dark world of Serge Gainsbourg.
So it was that between 1995 and 1997, Harvey released a pair of albums that were deliciously decadent, though sadly overlooked. Good news then that Mute Records has recently re-released “Intoxicated Man” and “Pink Elephants” as a 2 CD collection, with a couple of additional songs added for good measure.
The songs range from fantastically facile to flirtatiously filthy. The arrangements are beautifully constructed; huge orchestral swirls rub shoulders with swinging jazz organ riffs and fantastic 60’s influenced pop. Mick Harvey takes on the semi-spoken vocals of Gainsbourg, whilst Anita Lane provides a beautifully atmospheric take on the female vocals.
To mark the re-release, Mick Harvey and friends recently undertook a (very) small tour to promote the record. We were fortunate to see the show when it came to the Colston Hall in Bristol and what a joy it was. I assume that it is unlikely that these songs will ever be played live again by the brilliant band that we saw that night, which is a shame.
Luckily though the album is there for you enjoy. Where else are you going to hear songs about Bonnie & Clyde, the tall buildings of New York, tributes to both the Ford Mustang and the Harley Davidson, life lived in a comic strip or as man who spends his life underground punching little holes into tickets? All of these come wrapped around the most brilliant of musical arrangements.
Time spent with this antipodean take on the most French of all songwriters will be well spent. Throw a croissant on the barbie, drink some Chablis that been chilled in your Eski and enjoy this charming cross continental collection.