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Charlotte Gainsbourg and Beck (Un-)Cover ‘Hey Joe’ for ‘Nymphomaniac’

Charlotte Gainsbourg, Beck, Nymphomaniac, "Hey Joe," Jimi Hendrix

One of the most commonly covered songs of the rock era just got the breathy bedchamber-pop turn you never knew it always needed.

Jimi Hendrix’s 1966 version of “Hey Joe” is the most widely known, but the song’s murky authorship lends itself to radical reclamations by other artists — Patti Smith’s 1974 take is the prime example. For better or worse, though, the covers often don’t fall too far from the garage-psych family tree. See also a fine take by Australia’s Pond from a 2012 Nuggets anniversary comp.

Enter Charlotte Gainsbourg with a Beck-produced rendition for Lars Von Trier film Nymphomaniac, in which she also stars. Therein, she brazenly stares down her father Serge’s influence for a sinister, whispery confection that could’ve been cooed by Brigitte Bardot but sculpted only by the man who had Charlotte’s back on albums IRM and Stage Whisper. The obsessive attention to detail — the simmering restraint in each sharply exhaled vocal, prominent bass stab, rumble of piano, or flicker of guitar — helps fill this murder ballad with a sense of sex and danger all over again.

The song comes out digitally on December 16 via Because/Elektra, and the movie’s U.S. release comes in two parts, first on March 21 and second on April 18. Beck’s upcoming album Morning Phase is due out in February. Listen to Gainsbourg’s “Hey Joe” over at Pitchfork.