Dans le bruit familier de la boîte à la modeThis song is interesting on a number of levels. The first, and most obvious, is that the message of the song, perhaps the original "rockist" lament--modern pop music sucks! old music is much more authentically soulful and conducive to intimacy!--is replicated in its musical arrangement. It shifts schizophrenically between fashionable, high-BPM rhythms and the familiar Sinatra-esque stylings of Aznavour's other work (although personally I think the former are much catchier and better produced).
Aux lueurs psychédéliques au curieux décorum
Nous découvrons assis sur des chaises incommodes
Les derniers disques pop, poussés au maximum
C'est là qu'on s'est connu parmi ceux de notre âge
Toi vêtue en Indienne et moi en col Mao
Nous revenons depuis comme en pèlerinage
Danser dans la fumée à couper au couteau
Viens découvrons toi et moi les plaisirs démodés
Ton cœur contre mon cœur malgré les rythmes fous
Je veux sentir mon corps par ton corps épousé
Dansons joue contre joue..
- Charles Aznavour, "Les plaisirs démodés," 1972
The less obvious thing is that this song involves a massive dose of hypocrisy. Aznavour appeals to authenticity, but he himself is a fake, a deliberately nostalgic reconstruction of a prewar French music-hall tradition. In a way, he never even attempted to conceal this dimension of his artistic persona. He played on nostalgia always with a sly wink at the necrophilia that lurked at its heart. (This comes out in the plaintive "La mamma," with its dead grandmother who will "never, never leave us").
In fact, this move has a broader significance in the context of his work: it represents one aspect of the allure of the pathetic. The pathetic is the indefensible--not from a moral point of view, but from a visceral and socially conditioned one. The ridiculousness of a sighing, necrophilic nostalgia is one example. His other songs provide still others: the man standing in the corner at a party and watching the object of his affection flirt with other men; the jilted lover who knows he mustn't act out, mustn't show his pain, but does it anyway, desperately and ineffectually. Hence listening to Aznavour, despite his music-hall stylings, can be a deeply private experience. It is difficult to publicly acknowledge one's identification with these sadsacks.
Defending the pathetic involves a form of courage all its own. Even Nietzsche's morality is less courageous: the transgressive appeal of the egoist and the murderer somehow provides the basis for a plausible transvaluation. The sadsack can only inspire pity--and yet he is among the most common figures in our lives (and in ourselves). In a sense, the sadsack confronts us with the only interesting moral problem many of us will ever face, far more than the black-hearted murderer or the Resistance hero. To resolve the problem of the pathetic, it is necessary to purge all shame and revulsion from our relationship to him.
Of course, the pathetic is a recurrent cultural theme, especially in Russian literature (Chekhov's "Death of a Civil Servant"; Turgenev's "Diary of a Superfluous Man"). The Brothers Karamazov veers off from resolving the problem at the last minute: Smerdyakov never becomes a character we can truly accept. Aznavour, with his repeated identifications ("et moi, dans mon coin...") and with his life devoted to nostalgia, provides the materials for a true resolution--in an appropriately pathetic low-culture genre.