Serge Gainsbourg: Histoire de Melody Nelson

Music Reviews Serge Gainsbourg
Serge Gainsbourg: Histoire de Melody Nelson

Morally reprehensible, musically enthralling

Panning Serge Gainsbourg’s most celebrated concept record for being perverse is a bit like damning Bob Dylan for being coy. Sure, between lover and muse Jane Birkin’s faux (but pregnant!) nymphet pose on the cover and the album’s basic concept (old man hits young teen with Rolls, compromises her in a cheap motel and then loses her to a plane crash), you can run out of eyebrows to raise. But the magic of Gainsbourg’s Lolita is its essential surrealism juxtaposed with incredible musicianship. As the grinding guitars and trembling drum lines of “Cargo Culte” propel Melody Nelson’s 707 across the gaze of a cheering Guinean cargo cult and into the sea, the album’s undertone of macabre spirituality emerges as a thing of beauty. What’s more, Andy Votel’s encyclopedic liner notes and a Gainsbourg interview make this version the definitive reissue for the as-yet unsullied.

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