Nouvelle Vague - Bande a Part

If Nouvelle Vague’s first, self-titled album is a frosty poolside mojito on a summer’s day, then their new release, Bande a Part, is a more dark, moody counterpart; a glass of dark red wine to the original’s fruity chardonnay. Instead of making me feel like stretching out in front of the pool, its loungy remakes of new wave classics like Bauhaus’ “Bela Lugosi’s Dead” and Billy Idol’s “Dancing with Myself” make me want to curl up in front of a toasty fireside on a stormy night.

So light a few candles. Kindle the fire. Cuddle up and sip it in slow. Savor the bossa nova bittersweet which is Nouvelle Vague.

The words “Nouvelle Vague” can mean "new wave" when translated from French and "bossa nova" when translated from Portuguese. The general theme of the album seems to be made up of the following recipe: bottle up the punk or new wave roots of each song -keeping the fundamental chords intact - uncork, and bring in singers too young to have experienced the popularity of the originals. Like cultivators of a fine wine, they have labored with love to make the quality of the original songwriting be heard in a completely different way.

But who the hell exactly is Nouvelle Vague? Under the direction of two well seasoned, multi-instrumentalist producers Marc Collins and Olivier Libaux, their role call reads more like a list of France’s most delicious, well-known lounge acts including Mélanie Pain, Marina Celeste, Phoebe Killdeer, Gérald Toto, and Silja.

Their take on “Bela Lugosi’s Dead,” originally performed by 80’s goth rock outfit, Bauhaus, will send goose bumps up your flesh. Oh the bells are tolling! Oh the drums are beating! Phoebe Killdeer, in all black with her painfully pale skin, is in a candlelit, dark church somewhere, singing as if in a trance. You will be drawn in under the spell while she half-whispers and half-croons to us that in fact, Bela Lugosi is dead.

The remake of the equally dark Visage tune, “Fade to Gray”, creates images of sweet Marina Celeste pleading out the lyrics like a beggar on some wet street in front of a dreary French café. In fact, you can even hear the murmurings of the villagers who stop and stare at her, uttering French to each other and then shaking their heads as they pound the cobblestone past her. The contrast of her childlike voice against the weeping of the accordion perfectly captures the loneliness projected in the lyrics themselves.

But with all its darkness, Bande a Part, the album which shares its name with the 1960’s Jean Luc Goddard’s cinematic hit, still has some tracks that bring back the old familiar feeling from album one of sunshine and lazy days.

Killdeer does a fine, almost whimsical job on Billy Idol’s “Dancing with Myself.” Her scratchy, sometimes Billy Holiday-esque vocals transport you out into the night, where you’re dancing out under the stars. Gerald Toto also must have taken his Prozac, so much does his rendition of Blondie’s “Heart of Glass” lighten the whole album’s mood.

So add Bande a Part to your shopping list. Have some crackers and cheese and throw another log onto the fire. And please, remember not to look too pretentious while you enjoy it.

--Penny Lane Emerson

Release Date: June 27, 2006

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