Welcome to the Summer of Covers!
That’s right, all summer long it’s nothing but covers of or by the ’70s and ’80s acts I grew up on — and we’re going to jump headfirst right into the deep end with tonight’s cut.
As longtime FNV fans know, there are few things I like better than a song or an album that shouldn’t work, which has some sort of fundamental or conceptual flaw — but then the artist overcomes all that and ends up creating something beautiful anyway.
What I have tonight was such a bad idea…
Look. There are few things so musically useless as a cover band. I figure, if you’re going to do all the hard work of learning your craft and finding gigs and all the rest, the least you can do is come up with your own material. Sure, bands earning their chops on the local bar scene are going to have to learn a litany of Bachman-Turner Overdrive and whathaveyou if they’re going to pay the bills, but the core of the group should still be its own music.
But even worse than the cover band is the studio band. You think all those dancing boy bands or Britney Miley Gomez got their start because they shared some elementary need to make music?
You don’t need me to tell you the truth: They had MTV-friendly faces and could dance really well and could nearly carry an autotune — but what they really had was the eye of a sharp producer with a concept in mind. (Typically the concept was to make a crapload of money off a fresh face singing painfully current material.) Studio bands are rarely anything more than pretty round pegs carefully selected then honed to perfectly fit into the producer’s sculpted round holes.
The worst thing in the world then, like a musical Hitler in dance shoes, might be the studio cover band — moderately talented hacks performing secondhand hackwork for studio hacks.
And yet I do love me some Nouvelle Vague, the studio band’s studio band.
A pair of French musicians named Marc Collin and Olivier Libaux somehow got it into their heads that what the world really needed was bossa nova covers of ’70s and ’80s New Wave, Punk, and Alt Rock.
You read that right: Bossa nova covers of acts like Joy Division and The Cramps and Billy Idol.
There’s no way that should work.
But you know what? It works. Collin and Libaux hired singers who didn’t speak much English, and who were too young to remember the original recordings. The hope was that each singer would give their own twist to songs they neither knew nor really understood.
And it worked.
The strictures of bossa nova arrangements helped, too. My introduction to the band was their sorority-girl treatment of the Dead Kennedy’s “Too Drunk To Fuck,” which was so uproariously wrong that for me the song was love at first listen. To top that, imagine taking the 10-minute-long ponderousness of Bauhaus’s “Bela Lugosi’s Dead,” which I love by the way, and stripping it down to a bouncy little four-minute beach ditty.
It shouldn’t work. It does work. I am such a sucker for that kind of thing.
But no Bauhaus tonight — I’ve already hit you with enough from Peter Murphy, Daniel Ash & Co. over the years. Instead, here’s Nouvelle Vague’s delightful cover of the Buzzcocks’ 1978 punk anthem, “Ever Fallen In Love (With Someone You Shouldn’t've).”
Indeed I have — and not just with the world’s least likely studio cover band.