The late Serge Gainsbourg certainly had some unique ways of displaying affection. Nonpareil session musicians Sly and Robbie still talk fondly of working on his reggae album Aux Armes et Cætera, which seems sporting, given that Gainsbourg fondly nicknamed his Jamaican backing band "my chimpanzees". He expressed his love for his family by trying to turn them into celebrities, but Gainsbourg had a way of making people famous that leaves you wondering if dreary anonymity isn't such a bad idea after all.
Even though 5:55 isn't technically Charlotte Gainsbourg's first solo album (that would be Charlotte for Ever, which was released when she was 13), it is her first solo album as an adult and, with the help of a dream team of collaborators, it's a fittingly sophisticated set that touches on her father Serge's brilliantly louche, literate pop without being overshadowed by it. Air's Jean-Benoît Dunckel and Nicolas Godin (who paid tribute to Serge Gainsbourg particularly well on 10,000 Hz Legend's "Wonder Milky Bitch") wrote 5:55's delicate music, while Jarvis Cocker and the Divine Comedy's Neil Hannon penned its lyrics. This mingling of French and English influences is mirrored in Gainsbourg's subtly expressive voice and accent, which provides the perfect complement to the album's lush sounds and vivid imagery.
Music by Air, lyrics by Jarvis Cocker and Neil Hannon, knob-twiddling by Nigel Godrich. It's easy to believe 5:55 a vanity project. It's the second album in 20 years for Gainsbourg, multitalented progeny of Serge and Jane Birkin, the first being 1986's Charlotte for Ever, an album penned by her father. So there's no small amount of grooming here, but it's obvious from the hypnotic title track that there's nothing wrong with keeping it in the family, as Gainsbourg suggests everything with repetitive whispers of "and again." Air's heir's quite apparent, pushing moody strings and sexified sleepwalking through the ambient "AF607105," where she floats above Cocker's detached lyrics, and the French-sung "Tel Que Tu Es," another breathy, lusty ode.