Nouvelle Vague: Bande a Part

French Bossa Nova enthusiasts release another batch of reimagined new wave covers.

Nouvelle Vague

Bande a Part

Label: Luaka Bop
US Release Date: 2006-08-22
UK Release Date: 2006-07-03

Even if I hated their music, I would have to give Nouvelle Vague props for their name, which means "new wave" in English and "Bossa Nova" in Portuguese. Fitting, since they are a French band that covers new wave songs in a Bossa Nova style. "Band" might be a stretch, since Nouvelle Vague is composed of two French producers, Marc Collin and Olivier Libaux, and an exhausting list of ethereal chanteuses. Collin and Libaux's strategy is the same on this as it was on the band's first album: the singers have supposedly never heard original versions of the songs they're covering. This is a clever move, because we can never really accuse them of trying too hard to sound like anyone. Though Nouvelle Vague comes off as just an amusing novelty act, listening to this album as objectively as possible can reveal hidden depths in these songs.

What sets Nouvelle Vague apart from your average cover-band-with-a-twist is that only about half the songs on this record are well known. Standbys like Blondie's "Heart of Glass" and U2's "Pride (In the Name of Love)" stand alongside unknowns like Lords of the New Church's "Dance with Me" and Heaven 17's "Let Me Go". While this allows the band more creative leeway -- in addition to giving them more cred -- it is admittedly a little less fun than hearing a bouncy Phoebe Killdeer warbling Billy Idol's suggestive "Dancing with Myself". Some of these tunes sound great as Bossa Nova, but the main problem with those that don't is the sluggish torpor Nouvelle Vague seem to inadvertently exude. The dreamlike quality of the vocals can be appropriate and haunting, but these songs still need a little kick.

The album starts off with Echo & the Bunnymen's "The Killing Moon", a creepy song that vocalist Melanie Pain pulls off with the appropriate detached anguish. More impressive is "Ever Fallen In Love?" (originally by the Buzzcocks), which works surprisingly well as an up-tempo Bossa Nova number. "Ever Fallen In Love?" is the only well-known song on Bande a Part that transitions so seamlessly to Bossa Nova. While "Dancing with Myself" is always fun, it clearly doesn't work too well, and "Heart of Glass" and "Pride (In the Name of Love)" fall flat. It is interesting, still, to see the different perspectives that can be gained from a simple genre switch. I am always interested in hearing songs performed in vastly different styles, as it shows the versatility of the lyrics, giving them a different, sometimes more poignant, meaning.

Despite these occasional missteps, the album is enjoyable. In their best moments ("Dance With Me", Yazoo's "Don't Go", and "Let Me Go", which is performed by Nouvelle Vague's most charismatic vocalist, Siija), Nouvelle Vague is a fun, clever band to have on the stereo so your friends can ask, "What is this?" They don't really leave a lasting impression, but then again, they are less of a band and more a project, and there isn't too much here to analyze. Just sit back with a fruity drink and make your memories of the 80s a little less about mascara and little more about sunny, silly music.






'What a Fantastic Death Abyss': David Bowie's 'Outside' at 25

David Bowie's Outside signaled the end of him as a slick pop star and his reintroduction as a ragged-edged arty agitator.


Dream Folk's Wolf & Moon Awaken the Senses with "Eyes Closed" (premiere)

Berlin's Wolf & Moon are an indie folk duo with a dream pop streak. "Eyes Closed" highlights this aspect as the act create a deep sense of atmosphere and mood with the most minimal of tools.


Ranking the Seasons of 'The Wire'

Years after its conclusion, The Wire continues to top best-of-TV lists. With each season's unique story arc, each viewer is likely to have favorites.


Paul Reni's Silent Film 'The Man Who Laughs' Is Serious Cinema

There's so much tragedy present, so many skullduggeries afoot, and so many cruel and vindictive characters in attendance that a sad and heartbreaking ending seems to be an obvious given in Paul Reni's silent film, The Man Who Laughs.


The Grahams Tell Their Daughter "Don't Give Your Heart Away" (premiere)

The Grahams' sweet-sounding "Don't Give Your Heart Away" is rooted in struggle, inspired by the couples' complicated journey leading up to their daughter's birth.


Gloom Balloon Deliver an Uplifting Video for "All My Feelings For You" (premiere)

Gloom Balloon's Patrick Tape Fleming considers what making a music video during a pandemic might involve because, well, he made one. Could Fellini come up with this plot twist?


Brian Cullman Gets Bluesy with "Someday Miss You" (premiere)

Brian Cullman's "Someday Miss You" taps into American roots music, carries it across the Atlantic and back for a sound that is both of the past and present.


IDLES Have Some Words for Fans and Critics on 'Ultra Mono'

On their new album, Ultra Mono, IDLES tackle both the troubling world around them and the dissenters that want to bring them down.


Napalm Death Return With Their Most Vital Album in Decades

Grindcore institution Napalm Death finally reconcile their experimental side with their ultra-harsh roots on Throes of Joy in the Jaws of Defeatism.


NYFF: 'Notturno' Looks Passively at the Chaos in the Middle East

Gianfranco Rosi's expansive documentary, Notturno, is far too remote for its burningly immediate subject matter.


What 'O Brother, Where Art Thou?' Gets Right (and Wrong) About America

Telling the tale of the cyclops through the lens of high and low culture, in O'Brother, Where Art Thou? the Coens hammer home a fatalistic criticism about the ways that commerce, violence, and cosmetic Christianity prevail in American society .


The Avett Brothers Go Back-to-Basics with 'The Third Gleam'

For their latest EP, The Third Gleam, the Avett Brothers leave everything behind but their songs and a couple of acoustic guitars, a bass, and a banjo.


PM Picks Playlist 1: Rett Madison, Folk Devils + More

The first PopMatters Picks Playlist column features searing Americana from Rett Madison, synthpop from Everything and Everybody, the stunning electropop of Jodie Nicholson, the return of post-punk's Folk Devils, and the glammy pop of Baby FuzZ.


David Lazar's 'Celeste Holm  Syndrome' Appreciates Hollywood's Unsung Character Actors

David Lazar's Celeste Holm Syndrome documents how character actor work is about scene-defining, not scene-stealing.


David Lord Salutes Collaborators With "Cloud Ear" (premiere)

David Lord teams with Jeff Parker (Tortoise) and Chad Taylor (Chicago Underground) for a new collection of sweeping, frequently meditative compositions. The results are jazz for a still-distant future that's still rooted in tradition.


Laraaji Takes a "Quiet Journey" (premiere +interview)

Afro Transcendentalist Laraaji prepares his second album of 2020, the meditative Moon Piano, recorded inside a Brooklyn church. The record is an example of what the artist refers to as "pulling music from the sky".


Blues' Johnny Ray Daniels Sings About "Somewhere to Lay My Head" (premiere)

Johnny Ray Daniels' "Somewhere to Lay My Head" is from new compilation that's a companion to a book detailing the work of artist/musician/folklorist Freeman Vines. Vines chronicles racism and injustice via his work.


The Band of Heathens Find That Life Keeps Getting 'Stranger'

The tracks on the Band of Heathens' Stranger are mostly fun, even when on serious topics, because what other choice is there? We all may have different ideas on how to deal with problems, but we are all in this together.

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.