(Light in the Attic)
Nearly 40 years after its creation, Histoire de Melody Nelson “still has the power to make jaws and panties drop,” said Jon Dolan in Blender.com. The late French pop singer Serge Gainsbourg set the “record for filthy brilliance” with his 1971 concept album, just now released in the United States. Gainsbourg weaves a dark, Nabokovian tale, with British paramour Jane Birkin as the title character. In seven songs, which span all of 28 minutes, he lets us into the disturbed mind of a dirty old man who accidentally hits a nymphet with his Rolls-Royce, seduces her, and ultimately loses her to a freak plane crash.
“What could have been a mere provocation takes on tremendous gravity,” said Keith Phipps in The Onion. With help from arranger Jean-Claude Vannier, Gainsbourg bathed his story in liquid bass lines, “psychedelic asides,” and a haunting choir, creating an erotic symphony that unforgettably combined his “urge to shock with his compulsion to make great art.”