Histoire de Melody Nelson (Light in the Attic)
Reviewed by Audra Schroeder, Fri., April 24, 2009
Serge GainsbourgHistoire de Melody Nelson (Light in the Attic)
Thirty-eight years after the release of Histoire de Melody Nelson, you can still hear the heavy breathing. Collaborating with composer/arranger Jean-Claude Vannier, Serge Gainsbourg left much to the imagination on his 1971 Nabokovian song cycle, unfolding an illicit and tragic love story in just seven songs. Then-lover Jane Birkin coos the titular name on "Ballade de Melody Nelson," but the sleazy funk basslines and Vic Flick's wandering-eye guitar-work on opener "Melody" and orchestral closer "Cargo Culte" drive the LP's love, sex, and death beautifully. Gainsbourg's whispered nothings are mystery no more, translated here alongside the French lyrics. While there are no bonus tracks, the accompanying booklet features extensive essays from music writer Andy Beta and electronic musician Andy Votel. An added treat: an interview from Rock & Folk magazine, where Gainsbourg tries to describe the idea behind Melody: "I wanted to write a fantastical tale, somewhat surrealistic, without any bearing on reality."