Nouvelle vague is the French term for “new wave.” Nouvelle Vague is a band whose sound connotes French life and the nonconformist ideals of the 1960s and 1970s. The melodies describe a carefree life of taking long walks on the countryside, swimming in the ocean, and eating and drinking to the heart’s content.
Nouvelle Vague’s self-titled album is filled with cover songs of the post-punk and alternative eras from bands like The Clash and Modern English. The opening song “Love Will Wear Us Apart” is a cover of Joy Division, but resembles nothing like Joy Division. What Nouvelle Vague does is dissemble the songs, add a smile to each and the result are songs that enhance the lyrics and moods. It wasn’t until the 10th track, “I Melt With You,” that I realized that all of the songs were covers.
The 1960s were all about love and living, which most of these songs deal with. “In A Manner Of Speaking” sounds like a love letter with its soft vocals and soothing lyrics: “I don’t understand / How love in silence is reprimand / But the way that I feel about you / Is beyond words.” Someone is in love, and is overwhelmed by it. In contrast, “Marian” sounds like a good-bye letter: “I hear you calling Marian / Can you hear me calling you to / Save me, save me, save me from the grave.” Love involves losing it, and life involves dying.
Although the album sounds fit the themes of love and life of the 1960s, why does the band choose to do covers? Although Nouvelle Vague plays the songs well with touches of its own personality, it’s strange that a band influenced by nonconformist ideals would engage in covering songs. Isn’t what is essentially “copying” a song the epitome of conformity? To follow hit songs, and assume their familiar melodies to enhance the band’s own sound isn’t new, but it goes against what Nouvelle Vague is trying to say. Or maybe I’ve just been confused by returning to 2005 after my brief time traveling trip to the 60s.