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Nouvelle Vague with Kill the Pain @ Union Chapel, London (Live Review)

  • Written by  Captain Stavros

Nouvelle Vague with Kill the Pain

@ Union Chapel

Words & Pics by Captain Stavros

“We are really excited to come and play in the UK, we feel like the public will understand our music, our sense of humour and our style perfectly!” - Phoebe Killdeer/Melanie Pain. In the parlance of our times, assumption is the mother of all fuck-ups. Tonight, Union Chapel is packed with an expectant audience. The front row of pews is empty but upon closer inspection, and to our great annoyance, are reserved. There’s a loudish murmur descending from the balcony level mixing with the shuffling of our feet as the last pockets of space in the pews are snapped up. The lights have been turned down low, our space now secured by stage right, looms spotlit and empty. Unexpectedly, some flat & low-quality music begins emanating from the speaker stack by us, stupefying since no one is on stage. After what seems like an eternity, two vinyl costume clad animatronic-like humanoids clunk, jutting and jeering, onto the stage carrying microphones. This, is going to be a long set.

This is probably a good spot to take a trip back to a simpler time, allowing our brains to recover from the brain-melting horrors just witnessed. The year is 2004 and Nouvelle Vague, a French cover band, is about to drop their first album. At the height of the bossa nova bubble in the early ‘00s, the French troupe took advantage of a niche trend to introduce a new generation to a wealth of classics; ‘Love Will Tear Us Apart’, ‘Guns of Brixton’ and ‘Just Can’t Get Enough’ to name a few. With internet sales gaining ground, and piracy proliferating, this environment created a perfect storm causing the album practically fly off the shelf. It was catchy and approachable but ultimately derivative; perfect for quick and easy nostalgic consumption. After 20 years of franchise success perhaps imposter syndrome cajoled Killdeer and Pain to set out to and stake a claim in original music. Enter, Kill the Pain.


Labelled as ‘outlandish women prepared to push pop culture to its limits’ we can honestly confirm that those limits have been met and exceeded by the performance we caught. Said to have been inspired by legendary music mainstays such as The Slits, Le Tigre, Peggy Lee, Patti Smith and Kim Gordon, we believe it’s one thing to listen to and quite another to be inspired. Drawing comparisons and gaining notoriety by proxy, by attaching yourself only in namesake, to a musician is poor form. Peggy Lee’s ‘Johnny Guitar’ is so steeped in sorrow, it’s an absolutely heartbreaking masterpiece, you can’t fake that kind of talent and we didn’t see that in Kill the Pain’s set. Kim Gordon’s a living legend at 70 years old and is still pushing out original music, most notably ‘I’m a Man’. A gutsy and raw tune, she is the man. Kill the Pain’s ‘I Do What I Want’, by contrast, explores nothing of the aforementioned themes but instead is a silly piece utilizing upstrokes on a guitar with bubble popping grating noise, excruciating to listen to. The set relied heavily on audience engagement and lazy costumes, it felt like watching a pair of stroppy children ruining a dinner party with their ‘performance’ before dessert. Check please.

To be fair, there was a sweet takeaway from the aforementioned nonsense as a saving grace. Nouvelle Vague, post-punk bossanova brainchild of Marc Collin which has recently expanded into themes of reggae, cabaret, blues and soul on their latest album, entertained so completely that parishioners that evening were positively possessed as they shot upwards onto their feet. Marine Quéméré and Alonya were positively electric; burning up on stage in absolute radiance. Marine’s presence on stage exuded comfort and confidence in equal measures. Although we were all there for those warm and silky-smooth French undertones, her highlight for us was in her whistling prowess. Alonya, self-proclaimed Swamp Pirate, to our pleasure and disbelief was a loose cannon throughout their set. When, ‘Should I Stay Or Should I Go’ began, she shot off the stage in a roving mission of mischief, jostling everyone in the crowd she came in contact with. Shortly after returning, she popped the cork on a bottle of champagne and clamber on a large and pious marble altar a few meters above the stage. The audience was witnessed holding their breath when she finished, ‘What I Like Most About You Is Your Girlfriend’ with an impromptu contemporary dance routine. For the four encores (‘In A Manner of Speaking’, ‘Ever Fallen In Love?’, ‘This Charming Man’ and ‘I Melt With You’) Melanie Pain & Phoebe Killdeer joined the ensemble to close out the evening and totally redeemed themselves. We may not have gotten Kill the Pain’s humour but their vocal talents are irrefutable. An altogether unpredictable, peculiar and enjoyable evening. Highlights were a Mother/Daughter combo behind us singing along with the group at the top of their lungs, “TOO DRUNK TO FUCK!” In a church, no less!  Kill the Pain & Nouvelle Vague are currently touring.





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