Their ultimate gift to us is their ability to make music that pulls away at the odd loose thread in the settled pattern of Dutch life. You won't really notice it at first listen but they do.
Before I plough on with this review, I should state that sometimes talking about or reviewing music is not talking about that particular music; it's talking about things that that particular music affects, or that music reflects upon. And that's what I'm going to do. So if you need to know what the Nouveau Vélo debut LP sounds like in terms of a list of similar sounds in a societal-entertainment-"Dutch underground" context that make more sense to you, please go elsewhere. Or take my word for it that this debut draws heavily and brilliantly and messily on The Feelies, Orange Juice and a smidgeon of Josef K, The Golden Strings, The Crickets, Murmur era REM (loads of that) a janglepop take on Ivy Green or (in brief glorious, cloud-free patches) The Undertones. This bunch really could make a record like The Undertones, if they pulled their fingers out.
So no, it's not about the sound of Nouveau Vélo's debut. It's about the mists that swirl around the record, the mists that take you away from it and lead you down different paths of thought. To continue, I think we should think about the "opposite" of dreams and reality; two words that are often lumped together because of their opposite "meaning"; separated by a whole set of tectonic shifts and accommodations. Keep those two words in your mind. Dreams and reality. And apply it to pop music. In terms of acting out a "pop"dream in reality I think Edwyn Collins nailed it with that opening verse of Falling and Laughing (in Edwyn's case in relation to the subject of a dream conversation with a girl). Anyway,what was it again, "I only see what I want to see"? I'm going to appropriate this self-deprecatory and maybe throwaway lyric and turn it on you, the reader, and on the new LP by Nouveau Vélo. You see, I think that this new Nouveau Vélo LP says a lot about the Netherlands, and them as musicians.
Does Nouveau Vélo's dream have any relevance to the dreams floating around the clean, well kept houses in the meticulously planned towns that scatter this small and settled land? Possibly. I'd wager that this is a band that (whilst making the most affirmative, can-do, horizon-seeking pop) seems happy to court and map and question the nice, decent, spiritiually and emotionally settled world of the Dutch middle class. So where is the truth in their art? Are Nouveau Vélo court jesters? Possibly. Their ultimate gift to us is their ability to make music that pulls away at the odd loose thread in the settled pattern of Dutch life. You won't really notice it at first listen but they do. You may initially think this is a pleasing poppy record that could do with some professional production and a nice marketing campaign to get it in line with the other products currently available in the shiny happy "Hema/bakfietsmoeder/gourmet foods" world of Dutch pop, but it has so many sub agendas underneath that you get the feeling the band will eventually fall down one of their own emotional mine shafts. They stir deep currents, dig holes, plough things up. And look to emote that weird restless innocence that a settled existence generates; something you see in the Netherlands a lot. "All I really wanted was a house", sings Rolf on opener House, whilst not really believing it. Security is promoted as paramount, and boy do their simple titles hint at that Dutch stoicism; House, Turning Away, Still Here, Wait For Me. Check the tracklisting for more. BUT - and this is vital to grasp - there's an underlying ambition in Nouveau Vélo's music to chuck it all away. All of it.
It's a quiet power that also seems so diffident and gauche when it comes to explaining itself. "What ever happens /Always stays with me inside." It could be their credo; and the song Turning Away their most revealing. On one level, the "reality" promoted through the "Dutch underground" level, Nouveau Velo steadily plot their course like so many worker ants, making coy pop records. On another, "dream" level it reminds me of the (fellow Brabant/Limburgers) Golden Strings' classic pop record from the 1980s, I Wanna Be Like Everybody Else. But unlike the Strings' heady ode to incorporation as a good thing, Nouveau Vélo want out. They want new horizons. But not the ones you get through walking round the settled and quasi scrubbed pretend bohemian reality that the midddle classes have created in the Netherlands. (By the way; I'd trade that in, in a second; for my very own Febo dream.)
When I said that Nouveau Vélo made horizon-seeking pop earlier, I'm not talking about the quasi colonial, "leuk, jongens!" horizon-seeking narrative that Dutch travel programmes promote. I'm talking about an inner journey, whilst staying put here. That's why Rolf maybe wants a house, so he stay put and can think, and question what's going on about him. It's all about using your fucking brain a bit more than you need to.
Am I reading too much into this? Possibly, but then I blame this music.