NPR logo Existential Angst with an Impish Straight Face

Existential Angst with an Impish Straight Face

Killing Moon

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Nouvelle Vague overcomes the novelty tag through sheer earnestness. hide caption

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Wednesday's Pick

  • Song: "The Killing Moon"
  • Artist: Nouvelle Vague
  • CD: Bande a Part
  • Genre: Easy Listening

Nouvelle Vague may deny being a novelty act, but there's no arguing with the facts: The brainchild of Parisian producer Marc Collin and guitarist Olivier Libaux, the group performs Brazilian-steeped covers of new wave and punk songs, which are voiced by French singers in English. But the group overcomes the novelty tag through sheer earnestness. There's never a wink and a nod to suggest that this might be a big joke — though the Broadway-ready take on Billy Idol's "Dancing With Myself" on Nouvelle Vague's second album, Bande a Part, comes close to executing a full-on two-eyed blink.

Another Bande a Part interpretation, "Pride (In the Name of Love)," sounds like it could have come straight out the Muzak factory, but in this case, that's a good thing. It would be a pleasure to ride in an elevator with such a lovely interpretation, and the same goes for Nouvelle Vague's cover of Echo & The Bunnymen's "The Killing Moon." The song already possessed a minor-key Spanish feel, which Nouvelle Vague plays up while turning the tune into a gentle late-night waltz.

Like many Nouvelle Vague reinventions, the lyric for "The Killing Moon" is delivered in a girlish deadpan, removing the song from its sad sentiments. Singer Melanie Pain (one of five crooners on Bande a Part) sings lines like "Fate / Up against your will" and "The killing time / Unwillingly mine" without a trace of the angst with which they were written. She sounds positively impish in the face of profound existential emptiness.

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