Here’s one for all you bossa nova, lounge core, schmaltz fans who dig the soft sounds but wanted a bit more lyrical grit, or all you reformed trench coat wearing post punkers who’d worn out your cherished copies of First and Last and Always and Unknown Pleasures. Chic breezy stylings meet dour English passion head on in Nouvelle Vague; or as Mrs 1537 would have it ‘a load of really good songs completely and utterly fucked up, and some which weren’t really good to begin with’*. Now I’m not one to contradict my good lady wife, but I do <checks nervously over shoulder> disagree here I think this is a really good, interesting covers album, which like the best covers can, throws fresh light on old favourites.
So what’s the skinny? two French muso/producers Marc Collin and Oliver Libaux, team up with a revolving cast of six female singers** from France, US and Brazil; all of whom’s voices just do things to me. The song choices are pretty impeccable, its great hearing some tunes you know so well but they’ve also picked a bunch of lesser known tunes from the era too – I had to seek out Modern English and Tuxedomoon afterwards. This album functions really well as either a pleasant noise in the background with friends, or as a close listen.
Of course owning Nouvelle Vague immediately catapults the owner into an international jet setting level of sophistication and urbanity, like what I is already … and stuff. Obviously getting the reference to the French new wave cinema, spearheaded by the likes of Truffaut and Chabrol elevates you to an almost 1537-like level of savoir faire; double refinement bonus points if you can name another director other than Truffaut without using Wikipedia, like I did.
Take their version of ‘Guns Of Brixton’, laid back acoustic strut underlining Camille’s breathy post-coital vox totally masking this tried and tested tale of bravado and street hassle, it stands as a great contrast to my other fave Clash cover, Blaggers ITA’s version of this same track. An equally sweet reading of PIL’s ‘This Is Not a Love Song’ follows, the original’s blaring, jarring flash smoothed over and sultry-fied; I know it does carry a faint whiff of novelty about it but when it works this well it’s still a treat. Ditto their version of Killing Joke’s awesome apocalyptic ‘Psyche’, Jaz Coleman meets Stan Getz anyone?
The real paydirt for me though are my three favourite originals on here^, ‘Love Will Tear Us Apart’, ‘Marian’ and ‘Too Drunk To Fuck’. I’m not a massive Joy Division fan, especially not after reading Ian Curtis’ wife’s book Touching From A Distance but Nouvelle Vague really go to town here on the band’s best pop moment, transporting it and us to somewhere more hopeful and sun-kissed; those wave noises definitely weren’t recorded anywhere near Macclesfield. Now Sisters of Mercy fan I may be, but even I found their 1983 über-miserable masterpiece ‘Marian’ a bit much, there’s only so much doomed romance you can take on a Tuesday night. Nouvelle Vague interestingly keep the same spirit, but just lighten up the vocals a little, Alex doesn’t hit the same stentorian depths as Andrew Eldritch and I think the cover is better than the original because of it.
‘Too Drunk To Fuck’ is a real blast, I hear the original every few days because it’s on my running mix but I just love what Camille (her again) does with this one. Her sultry, breathy tones electrify this one to hear her sing,
Went to a party
I danced all night
I drank 16 beers
And I started up a fight
… is to know what temptation truly is. She gets massive 1537 bonus points for swearing, even if they’re only second-hand ones, as well as additional ones for the way she sings ‘Eray-ay-ay-ay -serhead’. I think I’m in amour. This is Nouvelle Vague at their best, cocktail jazz with menaces.
<checks nervously over shoulder, again> See Mrs 1537’s wrong!! Wrong I say!! Still, what does she know about partying, or anything else!! Shhh. <checks nervously over shoulder, ends post, slinks away from PC>
*there was more but I wanted to spare you the profanities.
**information on whether they did in fact revolve whilst singing is sketchy at present.
^for the sake of my argument I’m glossing over their version of Undertones ‘Teenage Kicks’ here, one of my favourite songs EVER, which they make a bit of a dog’s dinner of. Now forget this last line … 3-2-1 … back.