If there’s one word to describe the works of Nouvelle Vague, it's génial. Generally, I don’t trust cover versions. Many of them are an abomination that spits all over the originals, but somehow, the cover band Nouvelle Vague makes me forget that. Yes, that French band that rehashed “Love Will Tear Us Apart” in pure bossa nova sweetness—a complete turnaround from the original melancholic version by Joy Division that followed more melancholic versions (the Wild Swans among others)—it became the anthem of the brokenhearted. Granted, Ian Curtis would cringe in his grave while hearing Nouvelle Vague’s version, while I, in turn, was amusing myself.
The masterminds of Nouvelle Vague—Marc Collin and Olivier Libaux—lead the pack of chanteuses, including Melanie Pain, and are armed with sixteen new secondhand tunes in their new release, 3. Instead of copying the songs one to one, the boys from Nouvelle Vague stick to the formula: strip the songs off and rework them, sometimes to the point of being mundane and unrecognizable. Hence, Nouvelle Vague, which means new wave in English and bossa nova in Portuguese, has taken on a different meaning altogether. It is French chansons for the twenty-first century gone alternative.
If imitation is a form of flattery, then don’t wonder why Depeche Mode’s Martin Gore decided to join the fray. On the first single “Master and Servant,” Gore serves as a back-up vocal to Pain. Strangely enough, it feels like listening to a dialogue between a man and a woman engaged in BDSM, only they are singing. For a while the song was on the black list of many radio stations in the U.S. due to its theme. While retaining the guitar parts, Nouvelle Vague added a flavour of bluegrass and country. Voilà! The single is set to conquer radioland without any scandal.
Terry Hall (Funboy Three and The Specials) and Ian McCulloch (Echo and the Bunnymen) make a cameo. Hall sings with Marina Celeste on “Our Lips Are Sealed,” which he co-wrote for the girl pop group The Go-Gos; McCulloch renders his voice on the original EATB tune, “All My Colours,” in another duet with Pain.
Nouvelle Vague’s acoustic version of Sex Pistols’ “God Save the Queen” has lost its teeth. However, laid-back this version is, the message is still depressive and amazingly clearer due to its sinister lyrics. “Such a Shame,” an original by Talk Talk, heavily reminds you of Air’s hit single “Playground Love.” The treatment is moody, yet hauntingly pretty. The torch song “Say Hello Wave Goodbye” could even impress Soft Cell’s Marc Almond. The French accent on “Blister in the Sun” accentuates its cuteness, while Plastic Betrand’s original “Ça Plane Pour Moi” is darn upbeat and cheeky—great songs to perk up your day.
Some might find Nouvelle Vague’s repackaging of old New Wave and punk anthems an act of blasphemy, but in truth, this is the group’s testament of paying a tribute to their favourite songs. So music purists, eat your hearts out. Nouvelle Vague is here to stay and 3 is the proof of that.