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Existential Angst with an Impish Straight Face

Nouvelle Vague overcomes the novelty tag through sheer earnestness.
Nouvelle Vague overcomes the novelty tag through sheer earnestness.

Nouvelle Vague may deny being a novelty act, but there's no arguing with the facts: The brainchild of Parisian producer Marc Collin and guitarist Olivier Libaux, the group performs Brazilian-steeped covers of new wave and punk songs, which are voiced by French singers in English. But the group overcomes the novelty tag through sheer earnestness. There's never a wink and a nod to suggest that this might be a big joke — though the Broadway-ready take on Billy Idol's "Dancing With Myself" on Nouvelle Vague's second album, Bande a Part, comes close to executing a full-on two-eyed blink.

Another Bande a Part interpretation, "Pride (In the Name of Love)," sounds like it could have come straight out the Muzak factory, but in this case, that's a good thing. It would be a pleasure to ride in an elevator with such a lovely interpretation, and the same goes for Nouvelle Vague's cover of Echo & The Bunnymen's "The Killing Moon." The song already possessed a minor-key Spanish feel, which Nouvelle Vague plays up while turning the tune into a gentle late-night waltz.

Like many Nouvelle Vague reinventions, the lyric for "The Killing Moon" is delivered in a girlish deadpan, removing the song from its sad sentiments. Singer Melanie Pain (one of five crooners on Bande a Part) sings lines like "Fate / Up against your will" and "The killing time / Unwillingly mine" without a trace of the angst with which they were written. She sounds positively impish in the face of profound existential emptiness.

Listen to yesterday's 'Song of the Day.'

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Christopher Porter
Christopher Porter is a freelance writer, editor and photographer based in Silver Spring, Md. He has a bad back and great hair. His work has appeared in Alternative Press, Entertainment Weekly, ESPN the Magazine, Inside Entertainment, Global Rhythm, Harp, JazzTimes, National Geographic World Music, Time Out Chicago, The Stranger, Vibe, Washington City Paper and The Washington Post. He blogs and repurposes junk at www.christopherporter.com.