Alain Bashung

Bleu Pétrole

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Released a year before Alain Bashung died of lung cancer on March 14, 2009, at the age of 61, Bleu Pétrole serves as a superb swan song for the chanson legend. This final full-length effort was a laudable comeback for Bashung, who hadn't released a new studio album since L'Imprudence (2002), and it returned him to the top of the French charts for the first time in six years. In some ways, Bleu Pétrole is similar to L'Imprudence. While that album was written in collaboration with Jean Fauque and Christophe Miossec, Bleu Pétrole is written in collaboration with Gaëtan Roussel of the band Louise Attaque and Gérard Manset, a contemporary of Bashung's whose career likewise goes back to the late '60s. Roussel is also credited with producing the album, along with multi-instrumentalist Mark Plati. Moreover, both albums were critically acclaimed as latter-day masterpieces. The difference is, whereas L'Imprudence is often described as a noir album, a somber and tortured portrait of an aging man, Bleu Pétrole is more luminous. Among the several highlights of the album are "Résidents de la République" and "Sur un Trapèze," both written solely by Roussel. Manset contributes another couple standouts, the nine-minute album centerpiece "Comme un Lego," and his 1975 hit "Il Voyage en Solitaire," the latter of which closes Bleu Pétrole (and in turn the recording career of Bashung) on a perfect note. Beside the contributions of Roussel and Manset, there's a wistful cover version of Graeme Allwright's adaption of Leonard Cohen's folk classic "Suzanne." In addition to the songs themselves, Bleu Pétrole is impressive from a musical standpoint. A trio of accomplished guitarists (Roussel, Marc Ribot, Arman Méliès) infuse the album with touches of rock, the rhythm section (comprised of Plati and several others) leans toward jazz, and the string arrangements supply an air of grandness. Furthermore, the music varies from song to song; for instance, "Vénus" relies almost entirely on a string arrangement and a tiny bit of banjo, and then, three songs later, "Je Tuerai la Pianiste" is driven by a powerful bass riff and blasts of electric guitar.

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