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LIVE: Nouvelle Vague / Kill The Pain – Liquid Rooms, Edinburgh, 25/02/2024

Sorry Edimbourgh, did no-one tell you about the dressing up party?’ Phoebe Killdeer and Mélanie Pain are gently mocking us, but fortunately the duo Kill The Pain (for it is they), who met singing with tonight’s headliners two decades ago, know how to put on a show. I don’t know whether folk came earlier to night for the support act (which, frankly, should be rule no.1 anyway for supporting live music in these troubles times) but there doesn’t seem to be anyone who’s regretting it.

The duo released their rather fabulous self-titled debut album last year and almost all of it gets an airing tonight. For those of you who are still playing catch-up, it’s very danceable and a whole heap of fun. It seems to be the bastard lovechild (and I mean that as a compliment) of 80’s post-punk acts like Cristina (‘What’s A Girl To Do?’) or The Slits and the 00’s stuff like CSS, Le Tigre, Chicks On Speed and others. Hell, if it was the 80s it would be on ZE Records or the 00s it would be on Kitty-Yo or DFA. Either way, I think Peaches would want to work with them and LCD Soundsystem would want to mix them. (This could probably still happen.) Amazingly, this all feels very, very fresh. We get an eight song set that opens with ‘Zig Zag‘ and also includes ‘Meditations‘ (in which they ask “What the fuck is going on?’” quite a lot, and it’s hard to disagree) and ‘Chiwawa‘ (yes, that is the correct spelling). Any husband worth his salt knows not to argue with his wife, but when my better three quarters says at the end of the set that she would see them again, it’s hard to argue. And they are lovely women who cover their own merch stand and I may not eat for a few days, but buying the album was the least I could do, frankly.

Now onto our headliners. For the uninitiated (or those who still can’t use search engines) Nouvelle Vague is a French cover band led by musicians Olivier Libaux and Marc Collin. Their name means new wave in French, and refers both to the French New Wave cinema movement of the 1960s, to the new wave music movement of the 1970s and 1980s, and also to bossa nova which is Portuguese for new wave, a musical style that the band often uses in its arrangements (well, Ed, I’m glad we cleared that up – exasperated Live. Ed).

I have a confession to make: twenty years ago when the debut album came out, I was working in a record shop and didn’t get it. The joke is on me, because I have grown to really love NV. Tonight’s set includes over twenty songs, exclusively from the 1977-1985 era, done in their own styles. It’s not exclusively bossa nova, there’s a wonderful European-noir feel to their take on ‘People Are People‘ and ‘She’s In Parties.’ What they tend to do is to strip the songs down to their basics and then build them up again, so when they play ‘This Charming Man‘ it’s without that guitar part. (in the unlikely event they were to cover ‘Baker Street‘ I think it would be without the saxophone parts).

Much to my disappointment, they don’t play their cover of ‘Breakfast‘ (originally by the Asssociates) tonight, but right from the off with ‘Love Will Tear Us Apart‘ (which I think has become what is known as a ‘standard’), to the closing ‘In A Manner Of Speaking‘ it’s hard to fault a hugely enjoyable show.

God is in the TV is an online music and culture fanzine founded in Cardiff by the editor Bill Cummings in 2003. GIITTV Bill has developed the site with the aid of a team of sub-editors and writers from across Britain, covering a wide range of music from unsigned and independent artists to major releases.