Covers albums are difficult. You are obviously setting up comparison with the original versions. And often people will swear blind that your cover is not a patch on the original. It offers one up for a critical mauling.
Bande A part is Novelle Vague’s second record after their first eponymous album. It is more of the same. Bossa nova reworkings of new wave classics from the 1980s sung by French chanteuses. In English. With sultry French accents. Not owning the original, this is a review of a record on its own merit and not how it compares to the first album. However the band would probably be well advised to try out a different trick for the next record. (that’s not a critique; just advice)
By doing this they completely remake the songs and there is often little resemblance to the original. I don’t recognise all the songs but for those I do, some are I defintely prefer over the originals while I feel some don’t work so well. But overall it is a really pleasurable listening experience and I’ve been playing it again and again.
So, the record gives us versions of the following
The Killing Moon – Echo & the bunnmen
Ever fallen in love with someone – The Buzzcocks
Dance with me – Lords of the new church
Don’t go – Yazoo
Dancing with myself – Billy Idol
Heart of glass – Blondie
O Pamela – The wake
Blue Monday – New Order
Human Fly – The Cramps
Bela Lugosi’s dead – Bauhaus
Escape myself – The Sound
Let me go – Heaven 17
Fade to Grey – Visage
Waves – Blancmange
The killing moon is certainly good. Its eerie but lost most of its menace. Ever fallen in love with someone is no longer yobbish but incredibly sweet and you do want to fall in love. With the singer. Dance with me is a brilliant track. I’ve never heard the original but I could listen to this track all day. And of course dance to it. Good video worth checking out too, with an excerpt from the film the album name is borrowed from, Bande A Part.
Sleeve notes are interesting and I quote, “A pop masterpiece, completely forgotten since 1984. This song’s only really known in France. Its something we had to try as its arrangement is emblematic of the whole of the album. That’s to say, percussion instead of drums, bass lines played by piano, some guitar, a sensual voice…”
Next is my favourite on the album. A complete reworking and practically unrecognisable from the original is the cover of Yazoo’s Don’t go. gone ar ethe synthesised bleeps and blips of Vince Clarke’s original. In its place we have a huskily sung song fatale. It reminds me in parts of a classic James Bond theme.
Dancing with myself is interestingly worked as a 1920’s dancehall version of Billy Idol’s classic. For me its not a complete success. In an attempt to keep the tempo steady it loses all the intonation, snarl and effect of the original. But you could probably dance bossa nova to it!
Blondie’s Heart of Glass works well as a kissing accompaniment version of the original. It is slow, sultry and seductive. O Pamela is a side ender and I’m not aware of the original. This however sounds like a moodpiece for a film about ghosts.
Side two starts off with a tackling of one of the greatest singles ever, New Order’s Blue Monday. As a fan of the original(NO being one of my favourite bands ever) I find this a great disappointment. The starkness and detachment of the original are what make it great. The clinical electonica etc. Here its soft, its pleasant and really the melody is not strong enough on its own to make a great song. It suffers from the same attempt at keepking constant rhythm as in Dancing with myself.
Human Fly dead is better in that it comes all over Jane Birkin in sensual grunts and growls. And the wolf howling certainly adds to the mood. But possibly, not a strong enough song/arrangement to hold your interest throughout. Bela Lugosi’s dead is similar.
Escape myself brings a welcome change. A bit more disjointed and a bit livlier, it peaks the interest. The more I listen to this one the more I like it. And it does make me want to dance.
Let me go sounds nothing like Heaven 17. Its a real slow stripped down cover and quite reminds me of Goldfrapp. Fade to Grey has a great accordion intro and I keep waiting for a Yann Tiersen piece(he of Amelie fame). We don’t get that. we get a mood piece, cinematic alright; half of the song is taken up by people talking or street noises.
The very last song is suitably called “Waves”, waves goodbye. Its a lovely piece, all underwater sentiment.
The whole record, possibly a bit long, is a lovely length of music. There is not much variation in style or tempo. Its an ideal dinner party record. But there are songs, particularly on side one that i enjoy listening to with more attention to detail. I listen to the lyrics and I can dance to them. It might have benefitted from a slightly shorter running time.
THere are a lot of songs crammed on the record and you can see that in the very short lead off grooves. This potentially will lead to inner groove distortion but nothing was too obvious. Its a very warm sounding record, very pleasant, but you won’t be trying it out to demo hi-fi or impress your friends. But you will enjoy listening to it at home with a glass of wine. Vinyl pressing and quality seems to be very good and very quiet.
It includes a large poster of the cover art with notes on each track.