Music News

French Group Nouvelle Vague Makes Punk and New Wave Go Bossa

The origin of the French group Nouvelle Vague's name is three-pronged. First, of course, it references the famous French school of cinema. Then, the words themselves translate to "nova onda" in Portuguese, which is what Brazilians first called bossa nova. Finally, there's the translation into English: new wave, the great postpunk musical movement of the '70s.

All of this is carefully considered and pretty literal. Nouvelle Vague, the band, takes some of the most hallowed songs in the punk and new wave canon and retrofits them for a new generation — as bossa nova and other cool global sounds. The mix is swingingly with-it. After all, if folks dig bands like Joy Division, Depeche Mode, the Clash, and the Cure, how could they not dig them reworked as elevated mood music?

"Marc Collin and I were quite big fans of punk and new wave when we were teenagers, and we developed an early passion for the music," recalls Oliver Libaux, who founded the group with Collin. "When we decided which songs to cover, we chose songs we thought we could so something interesting with — not to create a new song but a separate reading of the song. A really different version of the song."

As anyone who's heard their renditions of Joy Division's "Love Will Tear Us Apart," Depeche Mode's "Just Can't Get Enough," the Clash's "Guns of Brixton," or the Cure's "A Forest" will tell you, what they did was indeed something to behold. Even the bands they covered have thought so.

"As you know, we change the songs a lot, but the very important thing to know is that we are not doing this for fun," says Libaux. "We are very respectful to the songs and the artists. And the proof of that is that our last recording, we have Martin Gore and Ian McCulloch appearing with us."

Yes, you read correctly. On NV's recently released album 3, Gore, of Depeche Mode, and McCulloch, of Echo and the Bunnymen, both appear. They join singer Melanie Pain, along with the rest of the band, on unique reworkings of their songs "Master and Servant" and "All My Colours," respectively. Also appearing is Magazine's Barry Adamson, who teams with chanteuse Nadeah Miranda on a version of his band's song "Parade."

And like the previous two LPs, 3 features an additional coterie of charming singers, including longtime collaborator Pain, who sings on three tracks. Yes, it is Pain who usually tours with Nouvelle Vague, but she's pregnant, so she won't be fronting the band at the Artime Theater this Tuesday. But fret not. Karina Zeviani will be there, along with Helena Noguerra, and they'll more than make up for the absence.

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John Hood