Alternate SoundtrackVideo

Haunting Melodies: Deadly Premonition & Nouvelle Vague’s Nouvelle Vague

Embracing the mystery of works that feel both unique and familiar.

By Derrick Sanskrit • September 30, 2013

Video game music can be great, but sometimes it’s fun to pair your wine with some different cheese. In Alternate Soundtrack, Derrick Sanskrit matches a video game with an album that enhances the experience.

On April 8, 1990, popular culture changed forever. A psychological thriller by the name of Twin Peaks premiered on ABC, capturing its audience’s imagination with a blend of surreal mystery and quaint rural quirk. It looked unlike anything on television at the time, more closely resembling cinema, and it reveled in countercultures that had been practically banned from primetime television at the time. Countless artists have cited the cult drama as an inspiration, but the show’s influence is so pervasive that some creators don’t even recognize it.

Take Hidetaka “Swery65” Suehiro’s cult-hit horror game, Deadly Premonition. The game borrows many of Twin Peaks’ concepts, from the setting, an unusual rural town, to the star, a mystically trained FBI agent who narrates his adventures to a friend who may not exist. Premonition and Peaks are both fascinated by a creepy, ornate dream room and by coffee. To anyone familiar with both works, the comparison is hard to deny, yet Swery does just that: He insists that the American drama was not a direct influence on his game.

More than the murder mystery or the town’s other oddities, the greatest curiosity in Twin Peaks is the sudden resurgence of hepcat culture. Teenagers swing their hips slowly to free jazz and surf guitar while rebelling against their parents just for the sake of rebelling against their parents. Deadly Premonition forgoes the jazz influence, so for this Alternate Soundtrack video, I’ll continue Swery’s trend of taking ideas a few steps too far by infusing the game with some modern bossa nova—the samba-jazz hybrid popularized by 1964’s “Girl from Ipanema.” Specifically, it’s the smooth and culturally naïve tunes of Nouvelle Vague and its self-titled debut LP.

Nouvelle Vague strictly performs bossa nova covers of pop hits from the ’80s and ’90s. As an additional self-enforced rule, the singers are unfamiliar with the original songs when presented with a lyric sheet for the first time. The results are hypnotic and seductive tunes that are as reminiscent of the original songs as Deadly Premonition is of Twin Peaks—and also able to claim the same lack of familiarity.

In the reinterpretation of Public Image Ltd.’s “This Is Not A Love Song,” the blistering anti-pop ballad sheds its weight to become a lurid and languid shoulder-lean of sensuality. Dead Kennedys’ “Too Drunk To Fuck” spins on its own head with self-parody, and Joy Division’s “Love Will Tear Us Apart” trades self-seriousness for bittersweet admissions of defeat. Across the board, the dark and severe is replaced with confident aloofness, the same way that Premonition’s hero, Agent Francis York Morgan, shifts from blasting paranormal monstrosities to fixating on a proper shave.

Driving a car through the streets of Deadly Premonition’s Greenvale almost imparts a sense of social responsibility. Cars move at a realistic pace that, given how other games have conditioned us for speed, feels agonizing. This pace, however, allows time to relax with a fresh doughnut and maybe tap your fingers on the dashboard along with the gentle woodblock of Nouvelle Vague’s version of The Undertones’ “Teenage Kicks.” The sweet assurances of XTC’s “Making Plans For Nigel” become more sincere with Camille Dalmais’s breathy coo. The faux-selfless decree “We only want what’s best for him” mirrors Agent Morgan’s confident and remorseless elimination of the threatening shadow-people, who whimper “I don’t want to die” and “What did I do?” after being shot in the face.

Deadly Premonition and Nouvelle Vague don’t repeat history so much as they revisit it, tweaking and restructuring their inspirations into something new. It’s clear that they’re not as ignorant as they claim to be, so they’re not fooling anybody, but it’s pretty likely they’re not trying to, either.

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32 Responses to “Haunting Melodies: Deadly Premonition & Nouvelle Vague’s Nouvelle Vague

  1. Tyrannorabbit says:

    This game really pissed me off…the only game I can think of that was an even worse offender for “too much cutscene, not enough game” than the Metal Gear Solid games. 

    • duwease says:

      I’ll go the other way and say this may be the only time where I wished for *less* gameplay and *more* cutscene.  I don’t know if that’s more praise for the cutscenes or damnation for the gameplay.

      • rvb1023 says:

         Eh, the downside was the combat, not so much everything else. Or at least, the rest of the game was interesting enough to raise the gameplay to “almost functional”.

      • GaryX says:

        I just watched the Endurance Run on Giant Bomb and that was good enough for me.

      • Totes Liotes says:

        The ps3 port had much better combat. All they did was make it super easy so the enemies were no longer bullet sponges. I played all the way through for both games but the second time on PS3 was much more enjoyable. I actually felt like doing the side missions and damn it, they were fantastic. I missed so much awesome shit the first time around, I highly advise 100%ing this game as it’s truly a one of a kind experience.

  2. Jesse Fuchs says:

    “Making Plans For Nigel” is XTC, not Dexy’s Midnight Runners. I have no opinion on Deadly Premonition, although Twin-Peaks-as-weird-janky-cult-game has always sounded intriguing.

  3. Matt Kodner says:

    Feel free to direct all complaints re: the horrible driving spotlighted in the video, because that’s me behind the wheel.

    I have no apologies because you try driving the Deadly Premonition car.

  4. The_Helmaroc_King says:

    Did you see that, Derrick? “Gameological”… in the coffee! Clear as a crisp spring morning.

  5. HobbesMkii says:

    Unrelated, Myst turned 20 years old six days ago, and Grantland ran this article about it, which I read today.

    It was a pretty defining game of my childhood, more than The Incredible Machine, or The Logical Journey of the Zoombinis, or Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego, and while I never played past the first one (and rarely past the first world of the first one), it definitely drove home the idea of a brand new world being fashioned, perhaps more than any other game since.

    It got me thinking that, for all the talk of when video games will get their “Citizen Kane” equivalent, perhaps that very thing came 20 years ago, and we all seem to have missed it.

    • SamPlays says:

      Hold on, are we going to discuss the merits/barriers of video games as “art” or is this going to be about the terrible writing that plagues pretty much every video game ever? 

      • HobbesMkii says:

        Well, I dunno about all that jazz, I just wanted to applaud that first entry into the Myst series as being exactly what Citizen Kane represented: a synthesis of innovation in both the mechanics and the storytelling for the medium. 

        • SamPlays says:

          The only difference, one that is observed in the article, is that Myst represented the culmination and death of “adventure games”. Citizen Kane’s lasting influence on decades of film-making, from narrative structure to optical techniques to editing to sound, is undeniable. Despite whatever opinion you have about the film, its an important work because it provided a plethora of templates for future films to borrow. Myst, on the other hand, had a much more limited (though no less important) impact on games. Beyond the technical advances made at the time, which are rendered moot by continual hardware/software progress, Myst’s substantial contribution is really in the use of geography and separating elements of a puzzle to different locations, rather than having everything located in a defined space. Pretty much every game with a puzzle has adopted this approach (including its close cousin, the fetch quest). The fact that your character can’t die hasn’t really become a mainstay in modern gaming, though the regenerating health mechanics in most games seems rooted in this concept. IMO, the Half-Life series, with it’s contribution to environmental design, narrative and modding-culture, would be a more likely candidate to compete for the “Citizen Kane of Video Game” mantle. But I’m not at all saying it’s the apotheosis of video games. I think video games, as art and entertainment, have a LOOOOOOONG way to go.

    • Unexpected Dave says:

      It’s a
      shame that the article raises the question of Myst’s legacy without really
      elaborating on it. It talks about 1993 and 2013 but mostly ignores the 20 years
      of history in between. There were a number of similar adventure games in the
      90s (Neverhood and Starship Titanic come
      to mind) and Myst had an immediate impact on games in other genres such as
      Mario 64.


      I also don’t
      think that it’s possible to replicate the Myst experience of 1993 in 2013. The
      prevalence of online walkthroughs has forced adventure games to change. Today’s
      exploration games (whether violent or non-violent) are less about solving
      puzzles and more about being thorough.   

  6. Girard says:

    Swery’s denial is especially silly, considering Deadly Premonition was initially a much more transparent Twin Peaks rip-off

  7. jdeviant says:

    Deadly Premonition was one of the most satisfying games of the past generation. It’s deeply flawed, yet oddly perfect. 

    • TheMostPopularCommenter says:

      Is it the “past” generation already? November is still a month away.

    • PPPfive says:

      I hear this from a lot of people…many claim the clunky, clunky gameplay and shoddy pacing kind-of suit the game and its themes. I was going to pick the HD version up but apparently its not improved at all and more expensive than it was first time round, so nuts to you, game. Plus Rainy Woods is a WAY better name

  8. caspiancomic says:

    Derrick Sanskrit, you’ve done it again. I always enjoy reading your reasoning behind these choices, they’re pretty inspired. And now I am absolutely entranced by this extremely bizarre looking game.

    • The Guilty Party says:

      I imagine it to be a GTA where you are the police and you have to drive responsibly and they have good music like XTC on the radio. I’ll just keep this version, thank you.

      • Patrick Batman says:

        It’s more like if you threw Shenmue and Silent Hill into a blender with Twin Peaks.  It looks like a PS2 game, but feels more like a PS1 game–it has that flavor of madcap inventiveness and “let’s-try-this-to-see-if-it-works” of the earliest three-dimensional games.  I’ve definitely played better games this generation, but I don’t think I’ve played any I enjoyed more.

  9. TVC15 says:

    Deadly Premonition is one of my favorite games of the generation.  It also had great music, so this article is bonus lame.

  10. huge_jacked_man says:

    The Director’s Cut has been greenlit on Steam and is coming out Oct 31st. Probably going to pick it up even though I don’t know anything about it aside from “videogame Twin Peaks”.

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