Tuesday, July 11, 2006Planning To Cover
Nouvelle Vague released their eponymous debut album in 2004. Their name is French for New Wave and Portuguese for Bossa Nova and, cunningly, their art is Bossa Nova interpretations of New Wave classics. Importantly, they are French (very), and are two men, Marc Collin and Olivier Libaux, who get French female vocalists to sing only songs that they are not familiar with to ensure that the vocal interpretations of the songs are as fresh as possible. The album was a quasi word-of-mouth success, unsurprisingly, as it is a truly wonderful 40 minutes of music as soothing as it is chilling. I, for some reason, had thought that it was a one-off project and was surprised to see a tour date for Berlin at the beginning of June. It turned out they have a new album out, Band à Part, which follows the same formula as its predecessor.
It lacks some of the naïve charm of the debut - there are some brilliant versions, such as their cover of Echo and the Bunnymen's The Killing Moon, Visage's Fade to Grey and the Buzzcocks' Ever Fallen In Love, where you really feel something has been added, rather than Heart of Glass which feels half-hearted and lacking the unimaginable New York cool of the original. But I think there should be a law against Blondie covers. But live they all worked much better, I guess it's like a phonecall in a foreign language versus a physical conversation, gestures and expressions make the comprehension of a message much easier. There were three singers in total, Camille, however, no longer plays with the band now that she is a chauntesse in her own right, and they were all french, petit, nicely dressed and tres charmant etc!
It was somewhat hypnotic, like three sirens enticing the enticed audience back to their 20s parisian boudoir. Or something. I read some other attendees thoughts on a messageboard later and many were undecided whether it was simply eroticised performance with little impetus on the music, while others left the hall with baguette cravings and indulging in their high-school french (check! check!). There will always be a divivde in opinion on Nouvelle Vague - music for winebars or fresh interpretations of the songs that defined a generation? Sickly sweet frogism or a clever musical experiment? Cashing in on their debuts success or doing what they love? All I can say is that if you like the albums then you should take the chance to see them live.