Thursday, April 12, 2007

Nouvelle Vague: Sweet and Tender Hooligans

pronounced (i think) “no-vel vag,” this french band is a recent obsession for moi. the phrase translates to (surprise, surprise) ”new wave”. and you might as well guess where all this is leading to. again.

i just got myself a copy of the band’s second “studio” album (meaning not a remix), Bande à Part which, much like their equally dedicated and eponymous first album, features all covers of hit songs from the ‘80s new wave and punk scene. while the highlights and personal favorites from the first were covers of Joy Division's “Love Will Tear Us Apart,” “Guns of Brixton” by The Clash, and, from the wild-haired band A Flock of Seagulls, “Wishing (If I Had a Photograph of You),” Bande à Part (released just last year) offers lotsa the same bossa nova riffs and renditions and reworking, from Echo and the Bunnymen's “The Killing Moon” and U2’s “(Pride) In The Name of Love” to Blondie’s “Heart of Glass” and “Blue Monday” by New Order. and while I do hate much of the covers being made of ‘80s punk and post-punk material, this one i like.


The band’s “philosophy” and “artful” concepts are, of course, rooted in the french new wave movement in cinema during the ‘60s. wikipedia explains:

“The New Wave (French: la Nouvelle Vague) was a blanket term coined by critics for a group of French filmmakers of the late 1950s and 1960s, influenced (in part) by Italian Neorealism. Although never a formally organized movement, the New Wave filmmakers were linked by their self-conscious rejection of classical cinematic form and their spirit of youthful iconoclasm. Many also engaged in their work with the social and political upheavals of the era, making their radical experiments with editing, visual style, and narrative part of a general break with the conservative paradigm.”

a scene from François Truffaut's New Wave film Jules et Jim (wikipedia)

funny that “bossa nova” itself translates to “new beat” or “new wave” in portuguese. and it’s kinda disturbing that the recent “rekindling” of the bossa nova movement has a lot to do with over-covers. i’m thinking of those “chillout” albums where some bands cover literally everything from “At 17” to “Lost in Space” which have become “elevator music” of sorts in certain “quiet” cafés and restaurants, mainly catering to late sleepers who need a caffeine fix for forthcoming exams in medicine and law. ya know…

the thing with this band is their seeming loyalty to the ‘80s new wave scene and their devotion to the tenets of this supposedly by now by-gone music genre—back to basics, stripped down, and a return to good lyricism. outside Nouvelle Vague’s frontmen Marc Collin and Olivier Libaux, all of the band’s guest singers (mostly established, female crooners from france) are invited to sing songs the original versions of which they are not that “familiar” with, so as to give a newer feel, musically speaking, to the renditions.

and you’ve probably heard them, too. they did that version of “I Melt With You” (originally by Modern English) if you’d seen that Hollywood flick, Mr. and Mrs. Smith.

and yes, they did cover The Smiths (the title of this blog entry being the very song they resurrected). hehe.

ah, the perfect summer music, together with the mixed CD paul handed me last tuesday (thanks, bayaw!). the old with the new, the faraway beaches and looming mountains in my head, this no-work and no-pay summer.