I almost hate myself for sharing this. It’s like eating a slice of sublime dark chocolate cake, followed by a full spread of some fine charcuterie, chased with some sumptuous Riesling. Obviously, it’s too rich and not entirely good for you…but man is it refined and tasty when you’re devouring it. That’s exactly the feelings I get when I listen to Alain Chamfort and Wally Badarou’s masterwork of elegant post-disco: Amour, Année Zéro. Something this rich can’t be hoarded though. That’s why it’s here, right? We’re spreading the decadence around – at least that’s my excuse.
Released in 1981, Amour, Année Zéro finds Parisian Chanson soft-rockstar Alain Chamfort completing his transformation from effete, Pop pin-up for the middle-class mom set into a full-blooded man aware of the wants and needs floating around his head, and actually making music that meets those fully-exposed sensations. Just two years before he had begun a creative transformation from Gallic pop into music more in tune with American soul and funk. 1979’s Poses found him working with the likes of salacious pop masters like Serge Gainsbourg, Jane Birkin and polemics like Jay Alansky to create something that felt at home in/out of bedroom and easily en vogue at the discotheque. Use YouTube to check out classy/classic tracks like “Manureva”, “Let Me Try It Again”, and “Bébé Polaroid” that predicted some of the Sophisti-Pop other bands would mine shortly or Nu-Disco others would foment way later. Amour, Année Zéro was markedly different than these though.
A more personal work both creatively and personally, Amour, Année Zéro featured the intricate arrangements/co-production of one Wally Badarou. Sharing Alain’s love for intricate melodies, together they in Los Angeles they came up with a musical dialog that could combine Wally’s exploits mutating American funk, through both electronic and African filters, with this whole other world of French filter disco and sexy Chanson balladry. Wally at first didn’t feel entirely too confident in why Alain wanted him specifically, but Wally’s own Back To Scales To-Night had all the makings of why. Gallic pop was in a rut and Wally had found a new key to get out of that staid funk. Released a year before Grace Jones’ equally steamy explorations in Living My Life, Amour, Année Zéro was the perfect training ground for what Wally aimed to do there: combine tropical, African, American, and electronic influences with wherever that artist came from to create a spectral, sexy new other.
While Poses only had a few songs written by Serge, Amour, Année Zéro was blessed with having every song written by the Gainsbourg (at the top of his late game) while Lio (Alain’s girlfriend at the time) and Serge’s wife Bambou added a particularly sexy recording environment, you could say the album wrote itself in such a scene. Things were opulent then but they weren’t undecidedly tasteful – this album just oozes with elegant sprawl (a worldly one at that). Amour, Année Zéro is still that rare 38 minutes of intimate bliss that feels much longer than it really is. Boum boum, baby boum, as they say…