An extremely overrated album because its the carrying case of an extremely controversial song; not a single entry here as interesting as “Bonnie and Clyde” from two years prior. A lot of these songs just don’t do anything to differ from anything else that France produced in the preceding decade (ie. “Elisa”), and a few flat-out suck, including whenever Jane Birkin decides to sing in an unnaturally high voice, such as “Le Canari Est Sur La Balcon” but especially “Orang Outan” (a song that doesn’t even have anything else going on; the wah-wah guitar solo just repeats her vocal melody if we haven’t had enough of it already) while “Sous Le Soleil Exactement” is a silly stop-start circus of a song and “Jane B.” just apes a Chopin melody. The liquid bass that will propel L’histoire de Melody Nelson pops up in a certain places, including “69 Annee Erotique” (where Birkin thankfully sings the choruses in a comfortable range) and closer “Manon” (which you can hear a better song using the same tools on Scott Walker’s Scott 4 that same year).
That being said, I actually really like Gainsbourg’s rewriting of “Les sucettes”, originally sung by a teenage France Gall who was none-the-wiser about the meaning of the song (it’s about the sucking of lollipops, if you didn’t know). There’s no ambiguity at all in Gainsbourg’s “I-want-to-fuck-you” voice and I personally prefer the wah-wah guitar-driven instrumental to the sugar-y strings of the original (though the solo here is much, much worse than the counterpointing bridge in the original). Dig the organ screams in the chorus and how Serge Gainsbourg can’t help but laugh at it all during the last verse.
And obviously, opener “Je T’aime… Moi Non Plus” is a goodie. Sure, it’s a common chord progression, and sure, its success across Europe and infamy is mostly due to Jane Birkin’s puberty-pushing moans (if someone tries to lecture you about how all music has to do with sex these days, just play them this and tell them it hit #1 in almost everywhere in Europe). But it wins me over for containing one of Serge Gainsbourg’s best melodies (when he sings “Je vais and je viens entre te riens”) and the juxtaposition, either between the stabbing guitar chords over the gentle organ or Jane Birkin’s feathery voice (no comment about how Gainsbourg asked her to do this so she’d “sound like a little boy”) balancing Serge’s masculine fortitude. And decades later, the best non-serious response to “I love you” that I’ve ever heard is still “Me neither.”