Words: James Frostick
Band image: Camille Bokhobza
Australian-born and France-based nomadic troubadour Nathan Roche has resurfaced alongside his band Le Villejuif Underground with a new 7″ in the can, out now through Born Bad Records. The A-side track ‘Ghost of the Water’ is a tipsy take on liquor-soaked excess and drying out – the promise of sobriety and the clarity we hope it will bring.
In the scheme of things, it hasn’t been that long since we last heard from Le Villejuif Underground. Back in late-2018 the band put forth a lovely record titled When will the Flies in Deauville drop ? – a collection of songs that were equal parts off-beat-yet-convivial lo-fi pop and tousled weather-beaten balladry. The songs were worn in and had a familiar feel – tales of overseas explorations, living light and spontaneously, and rolling with life’s unpredictable punches while also fighting its dragging mundanity. The band (which boasts the vocal talent of prolific Australian muso/writer Nathan Roche – known to some for his work in Sydney outfit Camperdown & Out and solo) went on an extended hiatus after the album’s release, casting doubt over the potential of a follow-up. Last week there was a flurry of activity that proved otherwise, as the group dropped a two-track 7″ containing fresh tunes ‘Ghost of the Water’ and ‘Les Huitres a Cancale’. Both are sublime samples of LVU’s brand of wiry rock jangle – the former is what I’m electing to focus on as it’s the only track of the two to be given a visual treatment so far, so I guess you could call it the ‘lead’ single if you wanted to.
At its core, ‘Ghost of the Water’ is an examination of alcoholism undertaken from a variety of angles – a collection of perspectives from maybe-fictional figures each grappling with the intoxicating vice. Sonically, its a spirited number imbued with a crocked charm. It shuffles with the shambolic plod of a drunk stumbling through an afternoon bender – unsteady but still mostly in control of their crucial faculties. Nathan, with his rich-yet-shagged vocal croon, spins short parables of the writer, the thinker and the bartender – each character hearing the whispers of the ghost of the water. This ‘spirit’ posits uncomfortable truths that sit in stark opposition to the seductive lies told by the demon of the drink. The perpetually parched characters have long been preyed upon by their addiction, while the spectre of sense offers the chance for hope and redemption in the glinting reflection of H20. It urges them to “pour it away” and “send him home”, a promise of restored humanity and lucid existence found at the bottom of a different glass.
Watch / listen to ‘Ghost of the Water’ below, or via your choice of listening service here. A limited run of vinyl copies of the 7″ – available through Born Bad Records – are currently being manufactured and will be shipped in July.