Nouvelle Vague, I learned recently, is a French phrase meaning "new wave," not "new AND vague," as I originally guessed, or "vaguely new" as one of my friends guessed, or "new vagueness," as another surmised. (Considering my love for 80s new wave music, my interest in cinema, and that minor I earned in French, I should have known this long ago, but at least I no longer live in such profoundly blightened ignorance. And I don't know much about Portuguese, but I do know now that bossa nova is how you say "new wave" in Portuguese.)
I learned this because a few months ago, a friend introduced me to a French band called--that's right--Nouvelle Vague. They are, to my mind, one of the coolest cover bands ever to exist: they have a bevy of sultry female singers providing breathy, faintly accented vocals to lounge versions of American and British new wave and punk songs from the late 70s and early 80s. Not only do they cover the standards, like Joy Division's "Love Will Tear Us Apart Again," but they also take on less commonly heard goth numbers like "A Forest" by the Cure and "Marian" by the Sisters of Mercy.
I liked them so much I bought their album for Wayne, who claims to love French bands to begin with. I thought about buying it for my brother, who, in the late 80s, used to sing along with me to the likes of Music for the Masses as we went to concerts by Depeche Mode, Duran Duran, Erasure and the Cure. But my brother has three little boys, ages 18 months to six years, and I somehow knew he would be ambivalent about owning an album that includes a hot-sounding French chick announcing over and over that she is "Too Drunk to Fuck" (as the Dead Kennedys originally proclaimed), no matter how cool the other songs on it are.
But I did play the Nouvelle Vague album for my brother, who wasn't as impressed as I thought he would be. "I find it hard to be interested in a band that only does covers," he said. "If a band wants my attention and my respect, they need to record some ORIGINAL music. After they've proven they can write and arrange their own music and lyrics, THEN I'll care about hearing them perform songs someone else wrote."