Melanie Pain: My Name (Cartell/Border)

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Melanie Pain: Everything I Know
Melanie Pain: My Name (Cartell/Border)

While Phil Spector was being charged with murder there were any number of stories of how he would wave guns around, but rather fewer people noted that back in 1962 he'd recorded the rather dodgy He Hit Me (And It Felt Like A Kiss) -- penned by Gerry Goffin and Carole King curiously enough with lyrics that run "when I told him I had been untrue he hit me and it felt like a kiss . . . he hit me and I knew he loved me".

Such sentiments are not only inappropriate but "not OK" and it would be a brave artist who might venture down that path of abuse = love.

Melanie Pain, one of the whisper-cute French voices of Nouvelle Vague who specialise in deliberately bloodless and inoffensive cool-chic covers of rock songs, doesn't strike me as courageous -- but on this debut album she offers Bruises which her press release describes as "a defiantly unsentimental take on breaking up . . . upbeat and irresistibly cool".

Well, maybe the bruises (and "scars") are metaphorical -- it is hardly defiant I have to say -- but she sings "I was sitting on my bed just pretending to be sitting on my bed when bang . . . I have so many bruises, but you have such a smile, you have such a smile . . ."

The jury's still out on that one (unlike on Phil) but it is certainly delivered over a childlike twittering tune -- and childlike is what Pain specialises in.

She strikes me still as one of those manufactured woman-child types who poses cutely, sucks her sleeve and bats eyelashes while citing Leonard Cohen and Nancy Sinatra as influences. She is no Nancy on the moody Helsinki here with Julien Dore (Nancy's voice had latent power, Pain suggests none).

She is however right at home on the albums sole cover, Harry Nilsson's lovely lullaby Little Cowboy and If You Knew has a sprightly wee pop bounce.

But it is the songs in French, which make up about half the album, which count amongst the best: the brooding La Cigarette; the quietly engaging, almost Peut-etre pas; and Adieu mon amour with Elsewhere favourite Thomas Dybdahl which is delivered over unsettling backdrop of repeated sonic scratching and a chiming guitar.

If you liked Nouvelle Vague or enjoyed her at the 2009 jazz festival in Wellington this might be for you, especially if you have a cocktail on hand and are feeling French and chic.

Me? I'm sitting half this album out and hope that Pain will extend her vocal range beyond that breathy intimacy which can get really annoying over the long haul.

Unless you actually stop paying attention, which is how Nouvelle Vague seem to work best.


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Jamie - Jun 2, 2009

"Unless you actually stop paying attention"........ I love that comment! And, in reality, probably 80% of my muisc listening happens when i'm not paying attention. perhaps i should buy this album just to have some guilt-free "Not paying Attention" music!

Mick Gentilli - Jun 14, 2009

My favorite part of La Cigarette (video) was "FIN".
(Sorry, it's just not happening here; my problem was I couldn't START paying attention)

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