Heard of Nouvelle Vague? No? Well you probably have caught them without even knowing it. Cocktail bars, the kind of parties that used to play David Gray’s White Ladder and the odd advert or too have all been under the spell of Nouvelle Vague recently.
This is the band that gave us lounge versions of such classics as Dead Kennedys‘ Too Drunk To Fuck and Bauhaus‘ Bela Lugosi’s Dead. The unusual cover version is most definitely where this band’s heart lies.
It’s no surprise then that they have put together this rather splendid little compilation in the style of such collections as the always splendid The Trip. A mere compilation of cover versions would be way too diverse, so they’ve kept the field fairly narrow by predominantly using New Wave bands.
The best covers are always those that bands take on board and make their own. This actually happens very rarely, Hendrix did it with The Wind Cries Mary as did Patti Smith with Gloria but neither is included here obviously. Instead we have Devo with Satisfaction, which they twist into a rather peculiar shape and end up turning it on its head, making a rock classic sound cold and robotic. It’s been a staple of any fan of Devo’s for years.
Elton Motello’s inspired take on Plastic Bertrand’s Ce Plane Pour Moi, Jet Boy Jet Girl is a storming punk filth stampede. You should already know this though seeing as it’s a classic.
The Flying Lizards put in a fantastic appearance with their version of Curtis Mayfield’s Move On Up. Stripping his skilfully polished funk classic down to absolute basics, and playing it on a keyboard barely worth a fiver might not seem like a good idea, but it proves that beneath the great production and sheen of the original lies the bare bones of an absolute classic.
Somewhat disappointingly some of the choices for covers are far from inspiring or interesting. Something that could never be levelled at Nouvelle Vague themselves. How many times do we need to hear yet another version of You Really Got Me, Walk On By, or I Heard It Through The Grapevine (although you have to concede that The Slitz version of this is brilliantly twitchy – like a school disco where the punch has been spiked with actual alcohol and cheap speed)? I could live without hearing any more covers of The Kinks or Small Faces tracks quite happily.
Still there are some choice nuggets to be found. I’ve always had a soft spot for Snakefinger’s version of The Model, even though it is fairly straight. Quite amazing too is the truly fantastic version of Fame (as in David Bowie – not the dance school thing sadly) by Duran Duran. It’s hardly New Wave, and the massive production values make it stand out a mile against many of the other tracks here. Off it goes stamping on the likes of The Stranglers with its suit jacket sleeves rolled up and a ring of coke crusting round its nostrils: it’s ridiculous and overblown, but somehow gratifying.
From The Honeymoon Killers (a band who recorded “the best Belgian rock album of all time”) comes a definite highlight in the form of Route Nationale 7, a song which actually became a European hit when it was originally released in 1981. OK so it sounds like something that would crop on Eurotrash, and there is a solo in the middle that sounds like it might have been played on an orchestra of ducks and some old milk bottles. Its quirky nature shines through though, and perhaps it is worth noting that covers seem to work really well when the tongue has found a home in the cheek.
This is by no means a poor compilation, although many of these tracks are far from essential. On the other hand, it is pretty good fun. I’m off to tune up my duck so I can cover Route Nationale 7.