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CD: Nouvelle Vague – Couleurs sur Paris | reviews, news & interviews

CD: Nouvelle Vague – Couleurs sur Paris

CD: Nouvelle Vague – Couleurs sur Paris

Gallic interpreters of musical yesterdays tackle their own past for the first time

Nouvelle Vague's 'Couleurs sur Paris': French new wave and post-punk given a smooth makeover

French interpreters Nouvelle Vague have a seemingly unsustainable path. Reinterpreting Anglo songs of the post-punk and new wave eras in unlikely semi-easy-listening settings (bossa nova, reggae, country and bluegrass) would appear to bring diminishing returns. But on their last album, 2009’s 3, they went gently Gallic, covering “Ça plane pour moi”, originally by Belgium’s Plastic Bertrand. Fourth time out, it’s all Francophone.

Marc Collin and Olivier Libaux’s first three Nouvelle Vague albums mainly featured lesser-known female Franco singers (notably Camille and Mélanie Pain – some original-era, non-French singers appeared on 3). Higher-profile French or France-based vocalists such as Vanessa Paradis, Coeur de Pirate, Jeanne Cherhal and Olivia Ruiz are heard here. Camille and Pain (names in their own right now) crop up too, as do Brit exports Charlie Winston and Hugh Coltman. The musical templates are much as before.

Couleurs sur Paris’s 16 songs are from 1977 to 1989, a broader sweep through time than previously. TC Matic’s “Putain putain” or “Sandy Sandy”, by new wave rockers The Dogs, aren't wildly familiar. Les Rita Mitsouko’s “Marcia baila” and Mano Negra’s “Mala vida” could be. Etienne Daho’s "Week-end à Rome" from 1984 became the basis of St Etienne's "He’s on the Phone”. “Ophélie”, an obscure album tack by Jad Wio, is beautifully covered here by Yelle. Its lyrics address sex with a horse. Despite Charlie Winston’s hugely clunky take of Kas Product’s “So Young but so Cold”, Couleurs sur Paris is a mostly unified, sometimes lovely listen. Surprisingly so.

It’d be great if Couleurs sur Paris led to unfamiliar French music being recognised. But it's an edge-free reminder of musical pasts. Which is why Nouvelle Vague are such a snug fit with ads for Sinex and T-Mobile, soundbeds for TV trailers, the inevitable Gossip Girl and Grey’s Anatomy, and films like Mr and Mrs Smith. The French media beckons.

Visit Kieron Tyler’s blog

Watch Nouvelle Vague, Yelle and Jad Wio's Denis Bortek perform and discuss "Ophélie"

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