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  Rough Trade 25: Stop Me If You Think You've Heard This One Before ...  
  various Rough Trade artists  
  Rough Trade (carried by Sanctuary here in the States)  
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Rough Trade Records are celebrating their longevity by releasing a compliation CD that features bands of today covering bands who were on Rough Trade in the past. And by "the past" i mean -- up to and including 2001. There are 2 (count 'em) covers of songs off of Is This It? by The Strokes, and that came out in 2001. I suppose that these covers are included here due to the massive popularity of this act. Whatever.... I find that the two modern songs are out of place next to the other, older, covers.

In general -- this is a covers record. It consists of bands you might not know doing songs you might remember having heard before. Some people love this stuff, some people hate it. I am indifferent. I bought this because it was a cheap (about $10) way to hear some new bands. Plus it contains a brand-spanking new tune from Elizabeth Fraser, who was the singer of Cocteau Twins but now is mostly retired.

So how is Liz's new tune? It's okay. She is really singing here, and doing so quietly. She not just belting the sounds out like she did with Cocteau Twins. It is a very different vocal style, closer to the soundtrack work she has been doing recently, or the vocals on the Twinlights EP. The music backing her up is pretty good. Current hubby Damon Reece (who you might remember from such bands as Spiritualized) does a fine job with the drumming, and bassist Sean Cook really shines. Apparently this song was originally by Robert Wyatt, but i had never heard of him before so i cannot comment on how Liz's version differs. Overall, if this is Liz's new musical direction, i want to hear more of it before i really judge it.

Otherwise, there are a couple of good songs here. The best is Tugboat by British Sea Power. This is a cover of a Galaxie 500 song about the life of ex-Velvet Undergrounder Sterling Morrison, and BSP turn in a wonderful performance. This is vibrant, organ-driven pop, and is nicely done.

I also like Jeffrey Lewis's lo-fi, off-key cover of the old Adverts classic Part Time Punks. His performance is quirky and odd, and he makes the song uniquely his. Speaking of "unique" tunes, I( Had A Little Boat by Alisdair Roberts (originally by Ivor Cutler)is just plain wierd. It sounds like it was taken from an old episode of The Muppet Show where it was a solo number by Scooter that was mocked mercilessly by Statler and Waldrof. Seriously -- this song has odd instrumentation and features a sort of "small" voice singing style. Wierd, but rather enjoyable.

Oneida's cover James Blood Ulmer's Jazz is the Teacher, Funk is the Preacher, taking what was no doubt a typical Ulmer guitar freakout and making it into a serviceable funkified tune. Additionally, Fa Ce La's cover of Eastern Lane (originally by The Feelies) is a catchy rock number, and Final Day, as performed by Belle and Sebastien (original by Young Marble Giants) is a catchy synthpop tune. These are decent songs.

Otherwise, well, if given the choice to "take it or leave it" i would choose the leave option on most of these songs. They are just generic covers of songs that i have never heard before, so they do not interest me. Well, except for The Fiery Furnaces by Winter (original by The Fall), which is an annoying song done in that incredibly irritating New York avant pop style (think Laurie Anderson). God i hate that stuff, and to these people i ask: ever heard of a little thing we call melody? Look into it... Man, i hate that song.

Now, since there are 2 songs by The Strokes on here, and the whole compilation is trying to cash in on the popularity of that band, i suppose that i must talk about these two songs. Please note that i, like Malimus (who reviewed their album here), have not been that impressed with what i have heard from The Strokes. Sure, they aren't a terrible band, but my theory is that if i want to listen to The Rolling Stones i will get out my copy of Hot Rocks and be done with it. Okay, that said, here goes. Royal City cover Is This It? and turn it into a decent, mournful country ballad, complete with banjo. Given that this is a Strokes song, the banjo is kind of funny. Overall, not a bad job, and at least they tried to do something with the song. The other cover is Last Night, done here by The Detroit Cobras. This is, i suspect, a pretty faithful cover, seeing as it is done in a very contemporary garage rock style. I am not as impressed with this one.

One final note. Given the subtitle, one might expect this compilation to contain at least one cover of a Smiths song. Perhaps even a cover of Stop Me If You ThinK You've Heard This One Before. No such luck. Does that count as "false advertising" enough for me to sue them? I dunno, but it is an irritation.

Overall, this is a decent compilation. There are no songs on here that you need to hear, but if you are a fan of any of these bands, etiher the bands doing the covers or the bands being covered, then this is worth it. Otherwise, well, i don't think that this is a strong enough compilation to recommend for general consumption.

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