I hate explaining Nouvelle Vague to people because, inevitably, it sounds really annoying. Young French girls covering punk and new wave songs in a Bossa Nova style. But wait. Before you run away, it is really good. Like ‘why didn’t anyone think of this before?’ good. Nouvelle Vague is the perfect record for that walk to work in the morning when you need sunglasses and a coffee the size of your head. Or when you find yourself in a “Friday Night, Saturday Morning” kind of situation. The Specials cover isn’t on the debut record, but Nouvelle Vague delivered their version of that along with Vagued-out versions of “Guns of Brixton,” “Teenage Kicks,” and “Love Will Tear Us Apart” during their hour long set last night at Joe’s Pub. Nouvelle Vague features vocals from eight different French filles, but the traveling version of Nouvelle Vague consists of masterminds Marc Collin and Olivier Libaux on guitar, keyboards and noise making duties with whispering, crooning, screaming, sighing and dancing provided by two of the star girls on the album, Camille and Melanie Pain.
If the premise of the record sounds dubious, the idea of the live show is even more suspect, and at the beginning of the show it did feel like I was in an audience watching barefoot teenage girls doing karaoke at a slumber party. A little pervy? Perhaps. Completely endearing? Without question. Once the girls and warmed up to their space and audience the show left the awkwardness of the bedroom but lost none of the intimacy. Melanie’s darker voice and more mature stage presence took on a majority of the main vocal duties, with Camille chiming in on harmonies, tambourines and vocal percussion (which I realize also sounds annoying, but was actually kind of awesome). Camille’s amazingly versatile cabaret-style vocals took over a handful of tracks as well, including “Just Can’t Get Enough,” and really, you haven’t lived until you’ve seen two adorable French girls singing “do do do-do-da do do.” On the Nouvelle interpretation of the Dead Kennedy’s “Too Drunk To Fuck,” Camille told her captive audience that the girls were not yet too drunk to fuck, so they headed to the bar while Marc and Olivier continued the music. As the girls traveled through the audience, Camille stole a beer, Melanie grabbed a martini and they hopped up to dance on the bar. Grabbing a bottle of Maker’s from behind the bar and downing it hard enough to make the Kennedy’s proud, Camille grabbed Melanie and headed back to the stage to finish the song, collapsing in a giggling heap on the stage. More songs, two encores - including a “cover of a cover” of “Just Can’t Get Enough” version 2 – later, I left Joe’s pub in love. Check out the Luaka Bop release of Nouvelle Vague and their slumber party karaoke performances and fall under the “do do do-do-da do do” spell. Just guard your drink when the girls hit the bar.