September 06, 2006


Fans of Charlotte Gainsbourg's acting only have to wait a few months before another one of her impeccable French films is released in America. Fans of her music, however, have had to wait nearly two decades before this prolific French actress, and less prolific chanteuse, released her second album.

Charlotte Gainsbourg fans, both of the musical and thespian kind, will be satisfied this month, not only with the release of her new album 5:55, but also the opening of her new film, Science of Sleep. Her second album 5:55, two decades after her last musical release, proves to be well worth the wait. Her sound is still dripping in prerequisite French cool, but now she is creating music independent of her father, the late French musical god Serge Gainsbourg.

Her last album, which was composed by her father, was more derivative of the mod-rock of the sixties and its scandalous lyrics; a formula which her father not only honed but basically invented. On 5:55 she collaborates with the likes of Jarvis Cocker (from the band Pulp) and Air, a French lounge pop duo who wrote the music for Sofia Coppola's first film the Virgin Suicides.

The album was produced by Nigel Godrich, who has worked with Radiohead and Paul McCartney. Even though these collaborating artists have a wealth of disparate musical styles, 5:55 proves to be a consistent album rooted in mellow synth and sweet rolling piano. "The Songs That We Sing," a relaxing combination of symbols and acoustic guitar, is the single of 5:55 though not the best track of the album. Far superior selections are "Operation," with its trendy pumping beat and piano and its musical illusions as well as "AF607105," sung in English with a lilting British accent much like that of her mother's, mod icon and singer Jane Birkin.

As a whole 5:55 is the perfect album to end the summer with; it is mellow and ideal for reflection. And let's face it: with a last name like Gainsbourg, Charlotte could make an album with silverware and dinner plates and still be the coolest thing many Americans had heard or seen in years.

Velvet Underground

Probably no other New York City band has had such influence on music as the Velvet Underground. While labeled as an experimental or art rock band, the V.U. made their debut with, by and large, a pop album.

While their first album is widely recognized within this genre, it does not fit pop's traditional mold; rather, the Velvet Underground and Nico is complex, musically and emotionally, arousing feelings of anxiety and melancholy. The complexity of the Velvet Underground and Nico is due largely in part to the voice of the chanteuse Nico, deep, mysterious, and German, paired with the relentless drumming of Moe Tucker and desperate voice of Lou Reed.

Eleven songs showcase their stylistic range on this album, veering from the pounding attacks of "I'm Waiting For The Man" and "Run Run Run," to the droning "Venus In Furs" and "Heroin," to the quiet "Femme Fatale" and the tender "I'll Be Your Mirror." Although the Velvet Underground was never commercially successful, Brian Eno (godfather of ambient music and respected producer) has said that everyone who did listen to the V.U. in the 60s and 70s was inspired to start a band.

Andy Warhol became the band's manager in 1965 and it was his reputation that helped the band gain a higher profile. Warhol helped the band land a coveted recording contract with MGM's Verve Records, with himself as the nominal 'producer.' Aside from insisting that Nico sing on their album he gave the Velvets unprecedented free reign over the sound they created. The artist also contributed the iconic album cover, famous for its simple, suggestive Warhol design: a bright yellow banana with "Peel Slowly and See" printed near a perforated tab. Those who removed the skin found a pink, phallic, peeled banana beneath. An allusion to the music, perhaps?

World Party

The Stephen Talkhouse, Tomorrow, 8 p.m.

World Party, primarily Karl Wallinger, is a rock stew. Throw in a little Beatles there, a little Sly and the Family Stone here, perhaps a pinch of Dylan to spice things up. British music obsessive Wallinger debuted World Party with the album Pirate Revolution in 1987 to much acclaim. Since then, Wallinger has produced three other records, one of which (Goodbye Jumbo) was named "Album of the Year" by British music giant Q Magazine. World Party's latest album, Egyptology, which you will most likely hear on Thursday, is, like his others, stuffed with thoughtfully crafted, bursting, timeless tunes. So whether you're a folksy vegetarian or rockin' meat eater, you're sure to enjoy the meal Wallinger prepares for you.

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