Tuesday, October 12, 2004

Cab Rides and Cover Versions

Listening to Paul Weller's Studio 150 at 6AM on a Tuesday morning. Not bad. Comfort music, in a way; songs familiar (The Carpenters' "Close to You," "All Along the Watchtower") and obscure (an unreleased Noel Gallagher song, Neil Young's "Birds"), rendered by Weller's weathered rasp and a small army composed of backup singers, a string section, and special guests from friend-bands like Ocean Colour Scene and The Stands. Everything's very well done, and Weller's signature style shines through, but as a whole, the album isn't very compelling.

There are, generally speaking, some cover versions that almost obliterate your sense of the original, that's how good they are (I would include The Sundays' version of "Wild Horses" on that short list; Stones fans can hate me all they want). Or they are sufficiently different from the source that the result is two almost completely distinct listening experiences (yes, I enjoy BOTH the U2 and Pet Shop Boys version of "Where the Streets Have No Name"). For the most part, on Studio 150, Weller neither enrages or astonishes, and while that means the album has no real high points, it must be said that there is nary a low point to be heard here, either. It's just a good, unsurprising set of tastefully-done songs in a 70s soul/guitar-pop stylee, perfect for -- well, perfect for cool early mornings when the sun's still half-asleep.

Oh, and here's a game I love to play when forced to listen to the typical public transpo radio stations that are always broadcasting teeth-gnashingly familiar love song crap from the 70s and 80s: I imagine them being covered by someone I actually like, whether it's David Bowie or Massive Attack or whomever. One can't assign artists randomly, though: you have to really imagine the new version, and really believe it might actually be good, might lift the song from its cheesy mediocrity. Examples: Nick Cave doing the Bee Gees' "Emotions" ("In the words of a broken heart it’s just emotions/ Taking me over/ Tied up in sorrows/ Lost in my soul"), Roddy Frame doing Christopher Cross' "Never Be The Same", and Freddie Mercury doing basically any of those over-the-top exercises in pop song sappiness by Air Supply (especially "Here I Am"). Haven't thought of an appropriate cover artist for Charlene's "Never Been To Me" yet, though I do find it easy to imagine a Tori Amos version -- spoken-word section and all. Knowing Amos' penchant for covers, maybe it exists, somewhere.