To understand the most recent artistic output of the former Bad Seeds member, Mick Harvey, you need to acquaint yourself with the music of Serge Gainsbourg which greatly influenced this album as well as the meaning of the album’s title, Delirium Tremens.
Delirium Tremens is the onset of confusion caused by withdraws from alcohol; symptoms include a number of physiological and neurological sensations: nightmares, hallucinations, fever, heavy sweating…The album takes on the theme of delirium tremens as its central narrative creating a kind of music drama around the concept.
It starts with the whacky song The Man With The Cabbage Head which unashamedly introduces you to a bold soundscape; you have fallen down the rabbit hole and emerged the other side in an acid trip world. The music is disconcerting, but you keep listening because you are curious of where it will take you. This track is followed by Delirium Tremens which is a reworking of Gainsbourg’s C’est Mortel Ennui. It’s as though you have now stumbled into some sort of ‘Tim Burton-esque’ French Café where eerie jazz music is the accompaniment to the debauchery that ensues. The song captures the essence of ‘ennui’ which is defined as ‘a feeling of listlessness and dissatisfaction arising from a lack of occupation or excitement’. One of the stand out tracks on this album is Convict’s Song which would easily fit into a Quentin Tarantino film with its Western feel and mesmerising, driving guitar. The insanity reaches its apex in the track I Envisage where the lyrics emanate the flaming predictions and rants of a mad man meandering a spiral of delusion supported by black brooding music. After this point it starts to steadily move out of this nightmare, the music once again finds structure and is comprehensible, but retains its dark biting twist. The track A Day Like Any Other takes you back to, a much welcomed, consonant state of mind.
The artistry in creating this unique collection of music, influenced by Serge Gainsbourg’s songs, based on the idea of delirium tremens is successful, albeit not easily understood and accessible to the average listener. Mick Harvey’s album Delirium Tremens is certainly not for everyone, but if you are a fan of the alternative, conceptual thinking and experimental music it is definitely worth a listen.