Nouvelle Vague - NV3 (Peacefrog Records)

Laura Bruneau | Friday, 12 June 2009

Nouvelle Vague - NV3 (Peacefrog Records)

Distinct and instantly recognisable, there is a comforting reassurance in the unchanging style of Nouvelle Vague. In the same way that we enjoy the feel of stinking old trainers that have molded over time to the contours of our feet, Nouvelle Vague's music provides a familiar touchstone in an ever changing sea of new and unfamiliar music.

Yet, just like those rancid shoes half-falling off our feet, we know there is only so long a model can last unaltered before we inevitably crave a fresh alternative. Producing their usual mix of punk and offbeat covers, with NV3 Nouvelle Vague deliver what fans expect of them but not what they would hope for.

Nouvelle Vague's success lies in the sinister, drawling, seductive melodies they put into play with a version of Depeche Mode's 'Master And Servant'. '80s electronic pop is transformed under their hand into a country-tinged, bluesy crawl through the depths of sexual depravity. In contrast, songs like 'So Lonely' by The Police are flattened out and remoulded into flabby, grey, lifeless drones. 'So Lonely', in particular, lacks the reggae beat and gutsy fluctuations that made the original stand out.

Credit where credit's due, Nouvelle Vague have an enviable knack for drawing the gentle, vulnerable notes out of the roughest of songs. Proof of this is to be found in their acoustic version of 'God Save The Queen'. Yet, by doing so, they remove the sting from punk's tail and leave it as maimed and tame as a defanged cobra. Furthermore, recycling this technique, so refreshingly quirky when they first came to prominence, now seems like an old trick, defunct and missing the shock value it once had.

The major problem with this album is the tendency to play it safe. Nouvelle Vague have chosen many songs that already fit their style and have shied away from the type of radical re-workings we saw in their first two albums. Tunes such as 'Heaven' and 'Say Hello, Wave Goodbye' have barely been touched and, overall, we are left feeling bitterly disappointed by the lack of creativity.

Fans of Nouvelle Vague might get a quick fix out of NV3, but newcomers to the band would fare better listening to their eponymous debut to see what they're really capable of.

Rating: 3/5