Love on the Beat

Serge Gainsbourg

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Love on the Beat Review

by Thom Jurek

1984's Love on the Beat will forever be one of Serge Gainsbourg's most memorable recordings, but not for its musical quality. First and foremost it is the album that gave us the notorious, now infamous, single "Lemon Incest," with its equally scandalous video featuring Gainsbourg on a bed with his scantily clad 12-year-old daughter Charlotte performing the song. It is also the only American recording made by Gainsbourg, recorded in New Jersey with Billy Rush and synth king Larry Fast providing most of the synth programming. Finally, it is notorious for its feminine screaming on the title track, adding a double entendre to the word "beat" in the title. Yes, she's screaming as if she's being beaten within an inch of her life and loving it. Sigh. Such is Gainsbourg. Musically, the aforementioned tunes -- the first of which is set to Chopin's Etude No. 3 -- are nothing special, and the rest are nowhere near as compelling as his best material. This is New York slick new wave production with Gainsbourg doing his best to be lecherous. Phase shifters and sustain boxes, tightly compressed sound and Gainsbourg's lewd poetry intoned over the artificially beat heavy mix. But this doesn't make it a bad record; just not one of Gainsbourg's better ones. If the production would have been toned down a notch, and the canned funk scaled back a bit, this album might have been a remarkable one. It feels as if Billy Rush and Larry Fast created this sound world for Gainsbourg based on what they though he should sound like if he were recording in America in the mid-'80s, not what he did sound like as himself. It's a fun record in a messed up, cocaine-drenched, post-disco kinda way. And "Lemon Incest"? it's one of a kind; a shiny, synth-heavy kitschy rhythm track layered with keyboards and Charlotte's cracking whisper attempting the same passion her mother, Jane Birkin generated with Gainsbourg on "Je T'Aime...Moi Non Plus," and it comes off as sick, cheap, and somehow strangely compelling. If you add Gainsbourg appearing on the cover in drag, you've come up with perhaps his strangest record -- and that's saying something.

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