REVIEW: Charlotte Gainsbourg – Rest

We love Charlotte Gainsbourg, but it’s hard not to wonder whether she’s taking the piss a bit with the opening of her new album, Rest.

Ring-A-Ring O’ Roses takes its chorus from that popular nursery rhyme and, truth be told, it seems like a segment on a late night talk show. You know, the ones that take existing tropes and re-imagine them in some way, in this case ‘children’s songs in the alluring tones of a French chanteuse”. It’s an odd beginning but one that reinforces one thing: Charlotte Gainsbourg knows her appeal.

Thankfully it’s the only real obtuse moment on an otherwise functional album. Gainsbourg  switches code between English and French and sounds perfectly wonderful doing so, gliding across a mixture of synth and organic production on songs like Lying With You and I’m A Lie. There’s a tendency to rely on the electronic artifice on a lot of these tracks rather than give Gainsbourg room to breathe and her tones not to be suffocated, and ultimately the record suffers for it.

But the standout tracks seem like the odd ones out in the general landscape. Deadly Valentine is an expertly produced and perfectly delivered song that makes the case for Charlotte Gainsbourg’s career as a proper pop star; meanwhile Sylvia Says is a similarly swirling, rousing piece of work that’s up there with her best. Yet it’s one song title that reinforces the problem of Gainsbourg being bigger than the material she’s been given. It’s Songbird In A Cage, and that’s exactly what she comes across as on this album.

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