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Friday, November 16, 2007

Music: Chomp on Covers Comps -- Three New Music Compilations

Franz Ferdinand: Batting 1-2

Various artists compilations -- whether they be soundtracks or anniversaries or tribute albums or all of the above -- tend to fall heavily on the various side. With luck maybe one or two tracks offer a new gem or perspective on a well-known artist or introduce an artist previously unheard. Recently three new comps were released to vie for the serious music fans attention.

The BBC Radio One Established 1967 is a paean to the British broadcasters "hip" radio station. The approach is stars of today cover the stars of yesteryear (or on this chronologically ordered comp's second disc not-so-yesteryear). The results are wildly mixed, from the awful straight sung cover of Elton John's "Your Song" by Streets to Fratelli's ho-hum Hendrix-lite "All Along the Watchtower" on the bum end to Amy Winehouse's Johnny Nash by way of Sam Cooke's "Cupid" and Groove Armada's clubbed-out version of Madonna's "Crazy For You." Most of what's here strikes a mushy middle ground, disappointing when such great coverers as Franz Ferdinand and Mark Ronson are on board. The only real surprise is a hard techno take on The Police's "Can't Stand Losing You" from Mika and Armand Von Helden and a sweet sugar-pop take on Wheatus magnificent late 90's hitlet "Teenage Dirtbag" by Girls Aloud.

I'm Not There, the ambitious soundtrack to Todd Haynes equally ambitious new Bob Dylan biopic consists of 34 Dylan covers spread over two discs. The batting average is significantly higher than the Radio One comp, but then so is the talent of the artists involved. Still over two discs what you get is an awful lot of too-reverent takes on an artist who has benefited from loose interpretations of his canon (even by himself). The highlights here are Sonic Youth who do a doleful take on the rare title track, and Mark Lanegan's assured bleakness on "Man in the Long Black Coat". Nothing here stinks, but a lot of it just makes you wish you were hearing the originals.

David Shrigley's Worried Noodles, on it's face, is the least promising of these sets. Also a double-discer, it matches indie artists both renowned and obscure with lyrics written by the multi-disciplinary Scots artist David Shrigley. The surprise is how consistently enjoyable this set is, both for its offbeat lyrics and the wonderful songs contributed by a multitude of sources. Amongst the highlights are Franz Ferdinands rockingly abrasive "One", contrasted with Hot Chip's chilled-out take on the same song, Final Fantasy's perfectly sardonic "Joys", and David Byrne's "For You" -- the Talking Headsy style lyrics making a perfect match. Over two discs there are still a few clunkers but the hit to miss ratio is unusually high. Worried Noodles is a fine investment and the best of this lot.

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