Memory is a strange thing. Images float up in your mind triggered by a scent or a texture. Sometimes you open the fridge door or find yourself zoning out in the warm spray of the shower and then suddenly - you remember something really important you should have done two hours ago.
Ok, you may wonder why I start out a review of a best of CD with a little aside about memory - this isn't In Search of Lost Time after all. However, listening to this CD has a strange effect on my memory, at least.
Nouvelle Vague is a French band that mainly does covers of pop songs in English. However, these covers are less like a tribute and more like a rearrangement, as often the songs are frankly torn apart and rebuilt with a distinctly French and new-wave feel (Nouvelle Vague, in fact, translates to new wave). This means that pop songs you probably know are rendered almost unrecognizable, even to the point of turning a punk song into a ballad.
They have released 3 albums since 2004: their eponymous Nouvelle Vague, and 2006 saw Bande a Part, and then in 2009 they released "3". So perhaps the release of a Best Of at this juncture is premature, to say the least - but somehow, it works.
As with any album, the first three from Nouvelle Vague have filler tracks - some songs just don't work with the new-wave reinterpretation. Inevitably, others should work, but fall flat. As with any Best Of, this album cuts the fat and bares only their strongest songs, and despite the hodge-podge of different sounds recorded over 6 years, the album feels remarkably cohesive.
Among my favourite tracks in this CD is "I Melt With You" (originally by Modern English) and "Dancing With Myself" (Billy Idol). I am a little aggrieved that "The Killing Moon" (Echo and The Bunnymen) didn't make it into this compilation, as it's one of my favourite Nouvelle Vague songs, and an excellent example of how they can change a song so dramatically while still using the original melody and lyrics. However, I did enjoy every song on this best of, even songs I wasn't at first familiar with ("Our Lips Are Sealed"). On sound alone, Nouvelle Vague are hard to dislike.
Sometimes sensual, sometimes mournful, other times pleasantly bland - the kind of music that would fit well on any soundtrack, and indeed, some songs have - Nouvelle Vague are easy on the ears. But they are not manufacturers of so-called elevator music - that odd quirk of memory, as I said before, factors in here: how can I know the words to a song I have never heard before? How can something be nostalgic and new at the same time? This is the effect of Nouvelle Vague - each song seems to have a faint residue of warmth on it, a faint sense of memory. Even in the mispronunciation of certain words, instrumental arrangement slowed or quickened, or lyrics thick with a foreign accent, seems to be embellished with an odd sense of paradox. This is my favourite aspect of listening to Nouvelle Vague, and the feeling is especially strong in this Best Of CD, featuring some of the band's more famous covers.
This CD is priced at £9.53 on Amazon at the time of this review.
It is 65 minutes and 19 seconds long.
1. I Melt With You
2. Just Can't Get Enough
3. Ever Fallen In Love
4. Master And Servant
5. Love Will Tear Us Apart
7. Guns Of Brixton
8. Teenage Kicks
9. All My Colours
10. Making Plans For Nigel
11. Blue Monday
12. Dancing With Myself
13. In A Manner Of Speaking
14. Our Lips Are Sealed
15. Too Drunk To F-ck