Serge Gainsbourg: Melody + En Melody
From Historie De Melody Nelson (Phillips FR, 1971)
This is one of those albums that should have been highlighted already but somehow escaped my recollection. The Melody Nelson LP is not the rarest of Gainsbourg’s works – he was ridiculously prolific as a composer – but it is the one that shows up on want lists all the time. You probably would get more out of listening to it if you actually understood French (which I don’t) and friends of mine have told me that Gainsbough is downright nasty on this album with his salacious lyrics. You can hear him try to get his mack game on with “Melody” – a signature track where Gainsbourg’s smoky voice is layered over a masterfully moody beat built on one of the most memorable basslines you’ll hear, a few bolts of electric guitar and simple but steady drum work. It’s an understated funkiness at its best.
In contrast, “En Melody” uses the same basic instrumentation but kicks the groove into a far higher gear with a speedier beat that races along at breakneck pace. If I’m not mistaken, that’s Jane Birkin’s laughter chiming in on the track (she appears elsewhere on the album was Gainsbourg’s great muse on many of his best compositions). Great, great stuff.
(By the way, for the curious, there’s a Japanese-recorded remake of “En Melody” you can check out)