On their debut, Nouvelle Vague took cherished tracks from the late 1970s and early 1980s by acts such as Joy Division, The Clash, The Cure, Depeche Mode and the Dead Kennedys and reworked them in a gentle bossa nova style. Sung by French female vocalists, some of whom had never heard the originals before, these cult hits had new life breathed into them, and their meanings became softly subverted. In French, Nouvelle Vague means "new wave", and "bossa nova" in Portuguese. Even the records' sleeves wittily referenced the artwork for Jean Luc Godard's early-'60s new-wave films.
The group expanded its musical palette on Bande A Part, adding touches of reggae, ska and blues to balmy readings of familiar numbers by Bauhaus, Blondie, Buzzcocks, New Order and Yazoo, among others. By this point, even hardcore fans who'd considered these easy-listening versions of punk staples to be sacrilege learned to enjoy Nouvelle Vague as a guilty pleasure. But what of the authors who wrote the original songs – what did these once-ruthless idealists think of Nouvelle Vague's more fragrant approach?
Well, of those canvassed, all approved – thumbs up from Mick Jones of the Clash, Morrissey, the Undertones, Dead Kennedys and Killing Joke. And this led Oliver and Marc to the concept behind the third album: Nouvelle Vague performs duets with the original singers. The pair wrote a ‘dream' list of the people they'd most like on the album and, when contacted, most said yes.
So on "3" you'll encounter Depeche Mode's singing "Master and Servant" with Nouvelle Vague's leading lady Melanie Pain; Ian McCulloch of Echo And The Bunnymen duetting with Melanie on "All My Colours"; Marina Celeste performing "Our Lips Are Sealed" with Terry Hall of the Specials and Funboy Three (that's a Go-Go's track penned by Hall); and Magazine's "Parade" sung by Barry Adamson and NV's Nadeah Miranda. For additional tracks that didn't make the final album, Chris Bailey from legendary Kiwi rockers The Saints performs a duet, likewiseSamy Birnbach of noted Belgian new-wavers Minimal Compact.
Nouvelle Vague transform Talking Heads' "Road To Nowhere" into a dusty bar-room shuffle, its head bowed as it traipses into the sunset after a long day working the land. "Heaven" by Psychedelic Furs becomes a tender acoustic affair. A bluesy swagger through Gary Numan's "Metal" is sung with innocence and charm by Eloisia, a young Brazilian girl who could barely speak English and knew nothing of this music. Even "God Save The Queen", once full of menace and bile, is fashioned into a romantic flutter. Add enchanting covers of Plastic Bertrand's "Ca Plane Pour Moi", Soft Cell's "Say Hello Wave Goodbye" and "So Lonely" by the Police, and you have Nouvelle Vague's strongest album to date.
To keep it fresh, Marc and Olivier approached this album in the same spirit of discovery with which they made their 2004 debut. Back then, says Olivier, they recorded four songs for fun and played them to friends, who loved them, and also loved the idea of turning new-wave songs into something different. And so they made an album.
As with all Nouvelle Vague's work, the real stars of the records and shows are the songs themselves.
When Nouvelle Vague play live, these well-known songs by other people become Nouvelle Vague's songs. They own them, you might say. In the last few years the group have taken to the road as a six-piece touring outfit, playing shows and festivals all over the world.