Nouvelle Vague
DISTRICT 6 28.5.07

What a strange idea - grab cover versions by New Wave bands from back in the early eighties. At least the licensing fees can have hardly registered on the budget...

As a crunchy old dinosaur, I actually remember most of these bands and many of the tracks, though a happy few delighted or dismayed me. Bear with me as we journey through some of the high and lowlights of this double cd set.

The robotic Silicon Teens suck the sex out of The Kink's You Really Got Me and replace it with aggression. Once we thought that synthesisers and alienation were really cool. What a far away land that was.
Devo's Satisfaction was always unsatisfactory and clever-clever for me.
I used to rather like OMD but they turn The Velvet's threatening Waiting For The Man into a ticking routine.
France's Antena work up Boy From Ipanema into a fun and spare deconstruction.
Jo Lemaire & Flouze do a cool cover of Gainsbourg’s Je Suis Venue Te Dire Que Je M’En Vais. It keeps the mannered and breathy swing of the original and I’ve always been fond of Gainsbourg simplistic wordplay (I’ve Come To Say I’m Going), touched with universal emotions.
Next is the inexplicable twinkly pop of the Honeymoon Killers, hymning the French road, RN7. Funny twice.
The Residents’ Snakefinger offers a cover of Kraftwerk’s The Model that is rather too close to the original, benefiting only from Mr Finger’s weird guitar.
Elton Motello contributes a fabulous remodel of Plastic Bertrand’s Ca Plane Pour Moi. Between them they practically constituted Belgium’s part in twentieth century music. Elton creates a paean to underage oral sex that grooves like a good ‘un.
‘Walk On By’, say The Stranglers. Not a plea, a threat! Menacing Mr Cornwell, sexually throbbing bass and swirly organ. Oooh, I’m all weak at the knees….
Gazza Numan’s On Broadway is NEARLY as bad as Neil Young’s Trans and coincidentally, Neil covered this song much better. It’s been hard to take Gary seriously since I saw a bootleg of 80’s music documentary, ‘Urgh! A Music war’, in which he drives around the stage in a teeny ‘futuristic’ dodgem, looking alienated while sterring it with a joystick between his legs. Oh, the horror…..

And on to disc two, phew!
Paul Morley’s beloved Flying Lizards offer Move On Up. Much funkier than their more famous Money. A lazy sultry voice drags me in.
Telex’s Dance To The Music is strangely compelling but then I used to stay up till 2 in the morning just to listen to the Midlands’ only hi-energy gay disco programme….
Summer In The City gets a strange bouncy backing to it’s disco classicity, courtesy of the fabulously named Comateens.
Zager and Evans’ In The Year 2525 set of fab futuristic predictions is given even more portentousness by Visage and Midge Ure. If only they’d used the whole song title, which ends with ‘Exordium and Terminus’. Wow! “In the year 3535 / Ain't gonna need to tell the truth, tell no lies / Everything you think, do, or say / Is in the pill you took today. Deep!
The torturing of People Are Strange is clunky, cumbersome and pointless.
The Slits claimed to rarely practice but the naïf approach gave a route straight from the hips and groin to the disc. Heard It Through The Grapevine is intense and exhilarating.
The Supremes’ Reflections gets slaughtered too, by Original Mirrors.
I used to dislike Duran Duran but Bowie’s Fame is reasonable fun, if purposeless.
Bowie crops up again when Nico does Heroes but I feel her heroes are more likely to start a fight than become Bowie’s Young Americans.
Not many people cover Pink Floyd and Etienne Daho shows why as he brings Syd’s Arnold Layne down to his own level.
Cropped from the Still album, Sister Ray is a relentless sludgy Velvets cover that was a hangover from Warsaw’s becoming Joy Division. I can still picture Curtis weaving as Hooky thums his low-slung bass.

A low-budget compilation of b-sides from a long time back by bands that time has largely not favoured yet it winkles out many gems that shouldn’t be allowed to wash out as the tide of history moves out. It’s good to hear some of France’s internationally ignored New wave offerings and Belgium’s Elton Motello track alone is worth the cost of the set – look it out if you don’t believe me.

Ross McGibbon