Charlotte Gainsbourg needs "umph" on IRM

The Urban Dictionary defines “Umph” as lots of strange sexual things, but I’ve always understood the word to mean that little extra power to make something great. Like “My car just needs a little more umph to get up this hill” or “This amp could use a little more umph to really ROCK” or “Charlotte Gainsbourg’s IRM needs just a little more umph to be really pretty good.” (See what I did there)?

That’s not to say that through a lot of the slowness and wandering you can’t find good song writing and musicianship, because with a producer like Beck, it’s hard to go wrong. In fact, with more listens, the subtleties of the songs start to show, and you almost forget that the first few times through were pretty dull. See, Gainsbourg does something interesting here: She spends the first third of the album playing hazy, intimate, art-house songs that take a forgiving ear to really appreciate. “IRM” and “Le Chat Du Café Des Artistes” are really some of the highlights of IRM, but that’s a fact that’s far from obvious.

The same, however, goes for “Heaven Can Wait,” on which she gains energy and finally starts delivering something more exciting. It’s almost as if she snapped out of a trance on that song, and spends the rest of the album exploring a variety of tempos and styles, from the very Kills/Beck-heavy “Trick Pony” and “Greenwich Mean Time” to the dreamy “La Collectionneuse” and self-described “Looking Glass Blues.”

What stays consistent through IRM is Gainsbourg’s soft, intimate voice and Beck’s overwhelming blues/art-rock influence. What varies is just about everything else, which makes the album a little bit of a hard listen. And giving it that third and fourth chance is juuuuust about worth it. If only it had a little more umph.

Charlotte Gainsbourg – “IRM” [MP3]

Charlotte Gainsbourg – “Heaven Can Wait” [MP3]

Buy IRM on iTunes

5 comments to Charlotte Gainsbourg needs “umph” on IRM

  • man, i totally agree– you articulated my unarticulated thoughts exactly. my fav track is “master’s hands” bc i love the big drummy parts in it– but i wish the whole thing were more like those sections!!

  • Nathan

    I always thought it was ‘oomph’, personally.

    Jamie Reply:

    You know what, I think it is! I just always learned it pronounced with more of an “uh” sound. Well, six in one, etc., as they say.

    Lee Reply:


  • Was also going to say it’s ‘oomph’!

    My comment was actually going to be this:

    We spell it ‘oomph’ here in Oz. But then we also say ‘G’day’.

    All ready to go but pipped at the post!