|Clap Your Hands Say Yeah/|
Sun Kil Moon/
Bonnie “Prince” Billy/
The Notorious B.I.G.
[The Mail On Sunday, 2006]
POP REVIVALS FOLLOW a pattern. First come the bands inspired by an era. Then bands who draw on specific acts of the time. And eventually, the phase we've now reached in the rekindling of post-punk/New Wave: bands seemingly in thrall to one particular album.
No sooner is Talking Heads' Fear of Music reissued than the self-titled debut from Clap Your Hands Say Yeah (Wichita ***) follows. Well, they've picked a doozy on which to base their sound. (In fairness, they do mix in a hefty dose of early New Order. And you can't accuse them of lacking variety: In This Home On Ice strongly recalls slightly later New Order.)
This billet-doux to David Byrne arrives nicely wrapped around a collection of very engaging tracks. It's understandable that folk are getting excited - Byrne himself hasn't been involved in anything quite this satisfying for years. But he can still take almost as much credit as the group themselves.
Covers albums tend to be either slavish tributes or insipid, careerist dreck. This week brings two which are anything but. Mark Kozelek, who thrilled us with the first Red House Painters records, returns as Sun Kil Moon. Tiny Cities (Rough Trade ****) radically reinterprets the songs of cult leftfield lo-fi act Modest Mouse as a set of impressionistic, dreamlike acoustic ballads to rival his best self-penned work. A beautiful album by any measure.
The poster boys of post-rock, Tortoise, have linked up with the ever intriguing Bonnie “Prince” Billy (Will Oldham) for covers grab-bag The Brave And The Bold (Domino ***), which lives up to its title. Some of these experiments work better than others; the highlight is a plangent retooling of Thunder Road which ditches the bombast for an otherworldliness hinted at but muffled in Springsteen's original. Fans of either act will not be disappointed.
Nor will fans of The Notorious B.I.G., but only because they are by definition incapable of it. An overrated performer from the off, and a calamitous influence on rap, Biggie Smalls has since his sordid demise been marketed as a martyred demigod. Duets - The Final Chapter (Bad Boy *) serves up yet more scrapings from a none too savoury barrel, garnished with brand-name guest appearances. Here's hoping this one lives up to its title, too.
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