Review Summary: This is not an album about death; it's an album about living with it.Ring-a-ring O’ Roses
, the opener on Charlotte Gainsbourg’s Rest
, does its best to table-set; that is, the instrumental and the hook both seem to establish a languid feel that not only overpowers all else that may lurk, but spans an entire era of the artist’s life. In reaction to what? “The ghosts that followed her in Paris”, Pitchfork reckons, or -- if you please -- Consequence of Sound’s more explicit: “the tragic passing” of both her sister and father. Both phrasings are more than fair -- loss on that scale must turn one’s chest to landfill. It must also imbue their words with an inextricable sorrow.
This album, most certainly, is sorrowful, but it’s a sorrow communicated by a very, very tired human being. She's not given up, per se -- the ebullient synths on this thing delineate a willingness to carry on; it's more the realisation that life will never be the same again, living with ghosts, as it were. Even as she attempts to dance the sadness away in Sylvia Says
, there transpires not much room to move, wedged between the stunning resignation of the title track and the antithetical themes imparted in Songbird In a Cage
. When I think about it, the borrowing of that famous nursery rhyme in the opener augurs that resignation; it positions grief centre-stage with a double entendre, invoking her father’s memory through the use of the nursery, and illustrating the acceptance of loss by replicating its notably blasé delivery. As if there's no use welling up anymore.
A pocket full of posies / we all fall down. Oh well, it happens.
Serge Gainsbourg’s influence is felt here, but if I might be so bold, his significance takes more abstract forms: the anecdote behind a lyric, the tendency to splinter and stretch a base emotion (bereavement, in this instance) in so many different directions, and/or treating it with some irony (the fact that the most intimate kind of sadness shakes at the epicentre of these occasionally grand compositions is as beautiful as it is disarming). If this record were represented by an arc, I’d expect to find Charlotte somewhere at the bottom, but only as she begins to attempt her ascent back to a point where the most recent trauma – her sister’s passing, from my understanding -- doesn’t follow her around like two anchors tied tightly around her ankles. I’ve found myself at this conclusion because it’s the only way I can reconcile such a heavy, exhausted/ing album with the inclusion of (dare I say it) jaunty and effervescent songs like Sylvia Says
and Les crocodiles
. The “ascent”, I think, is realised completely with Les oxalis
-- easily the catchiest hook on the record, coated as it is in glitter and unmistakable joie de vivre.
The song, as it turns out, is about Charlotte visiting her sister’s grave.
While it distracts itself with intoxicating moments, and Gainsbourg’s delivery remains like the steam emanating from your morning coffee, Rest
can’t help but return to where it began. It’s why it’s important, I think: such accurate portrayals of mourning are rare to come by – no less the ones that detail what it’s like years down the beaten path. Records like The Skeleton Tree
are immediate reactions – raw, solely focused and incapable of stemming the bleeding, but this one colours in a different landscape; it’s passed through the seven stages before, and all of them still linger in its corners. Charlotte Gainsbourg deserves some Rest.
Ring-a-ring o' roses / a pocket full of posies / a tissue, a tissue / we all stay down.