On Nouvelle Vague


Album: Nouvelle Vague

Artist: Nouvelle Vague

Genre: jazz (bossa nova)

Release date: 2004

Copies last seen at: Music One (Quezon Avenue) and Fully Booked (Rockwell).

Track listing:

                   1.   Love Will Tear Us Apart

                   2.   I Just Can’t Get Enough

                   3.   In A Manner Of Speaking

                   4.  Guns Of Brixton

                   5.  This Is Not A Love Song

                   6.  Too Drunk To Fuck

                   7.  Marian

                   8.   Making Plans For Nigel

                   9.   A Forest

                 10.  I Melt With You

                 11. Teenage Kicks

                 12.  Psyche

                 13.  Friday Night Saturday Morning

What could be more rebellious than rendering guttural punk in sensuous bossa nova? This is the inversion of inversions, the counterpoint of counterpoints.

My brother, along with a cousin, both of them playing in punk bands, and both of them utterly stubborn and close-minded when it comes to punk song revivals, could not believe how this group, Nouvelle Vague, made a jazz song out of The Clash’s The Guns Of Brixton. Me neither. But Nouvelle Vague did just that. And decently.

No, more than decently, respectably.

This record is but a proof of how foolish are those who say that punk composers are dumb for limiting themselves in the usual three-chord harmony structure of a punk song. But a great punk song either pumps the blood up with its beat, or gives you a good case of last-song-syndrome with its infectious melody. Or both. Great beat, great melody. Punk requires it. Nouvelle Vague would have had nothing to work on if not for that.

Of the thirteen tracks, I have heard only four in their original form, Love Will Tear Us Apart by Joy Division, I Melt With You by Modern English, I Just Can’t Get Enough by Depeche Mode, and Guns Of Brixton by The Clash.

Does one need to hear each track in original form to trust this record? No. I have not previously heard in its original form the song which prompted me to search for this record, In A Manner Of Speaking, yet I bought it. And at this point, with the song’s grip on me, I actually feel no urgency in hearing the original. But then again, that’s just me.

The point is, this record stands great in itself for being a well-rounded jazz output. The fact that it is a cover album of punk and post-punk songs turned into jazz, bossa nova, is simply its profound bonus for the apprehensive, or cynical, or unwitting listener.

The question still hangs, though, how was Nouvelle Vague able to do justice to the songs? From what I can only deduce, simple – by understanding each song, and re-interpreting it based on the song’s spirit. As hope and inspiration is what I Melt With You basically exudes through Modern English’s energetically and danceably upbeat conception, Nouvelle Vague achieved the same end by going the laid-back way, with whimsical xylophones and an echoing bass. Meanwhile, the fear and desperation in Joy Division’s own danceably upbeat Love Will Tear Us Apart was brought out by Nouvelle Vague not through the vocalist Eloisa’s internalization of the said emotions – on the contrary, her lazy, carefree interpretation would be what might cast the fear on the song’s supposed addressee. The Guns Of Brixton is sheer daring and attitude as originally sung with a nagging yet controlled angst by Paul Simonon. Nouvelle Vague, through Camille on vocals, went the teasing way to arrive at the same daring attitude. One could imagine Camille smirking as she half-drawls and half-whispers “no need for the Black Maria, goodbye to the Brixton sun”.

As for my obviously-overrated-by-this-time personal favorite In A Manner Of Speaking, apart from the painfully yearning take of Camille which accurately brought out the song’s lyrical irony, especially whenever she arrives at the chorus, and then with seeming surrender as she goes la-la-ta-ta-ta-ta… at the close, there is that line of brass (or was that strings?) that enters the song upon the second chorus, sustaining itself until the chorus’ next repetitions, underscoring the said yearning suggested by the vocals. I guess hearing the original is not required for one to see the depth of respect Nouvelle Vague has for the Martin Gore penned song. Only a respectful musician could work out such subtleties from its source material.

It’s as if Nouvelle Vague just made sure that they would always simply get to the song’s core, no matter what. And they did.

Just as Camille’s vocals would go in Too Drunk To Fuck. In the song, the persona needn’t – well… she already sounds as if she’s come.

Again, no matter how, seemingly. Same destination. Good music.