"One of the thing about music is that it has the power to make you remember exactly how you felt at a certain point in your life" -- Spearmint This is a souvenir
A wander back through the 90's is what you will experience with this double CD tribute about one of the most influential American indie rock band of this last decade. The colossal work put out by the Italian label Homesleep features no less than 35 Pavement songs ranging from simple covers to amazing re-interpretations.
The artists are not only Homesleep artists (Lenola, Micevice, Boxstop, Yuppie Flu, Julie's Haircut, Trumans Water, F*ck) but bands that were clearly influenced by Pavement and/or wanted to pay homage to one of their favorite bands. Artists were given free range to select their songs. The majority of the songs selected are from Pavement's first album 'Slanted and Enchanted' 1991 with a total of 7 songs, or 10 with the songs selected from the 2002 'Luxe and Reduxe' release. 'Crooked rain, crooked rain' from 1994 is also a popular pick among the 35 artists with 7 songs.
It is no wonder if there are 3 versions of Here on this compilation because it is simply a beautiful song. The Tindersticks version is my favorite with its melancholic orchestration and also because I tend to like Stuart Staples voice. The country feel version of Chicago band Number One Cup version is actually the first one appearing on the album (CD1). It's an acoustic version and I like the warm touch brought by the harmonica. The last re-interpretation of Here is the second to last song on CD2 by indie-pop trio from California, Lunchbox. Even though I love the piano melodies (1'43), the trumpet, and the boy/girl harmonies, I don't quite agree with the need for electric guitars, which come as a disruption from the warm and mellow tones rendered by the acoustic instruments. Also, these two need to learn how to sing together.
The highlight songs of this compilation are those that go beyond the traditional "cover song". Some artists internalized the song they selected to such extent that it sounds like one of their own. Re-interpretation is what these songs should be called, not covers. You find yourself forgetting the original version to dive into the newly created emotions. Take Shady lane for instance as re-interpreted by Dutch pop band Solex. Oh my God, Oh my God, what a great version! It is catchy and high in energy. The fresh and naïve voice of Elisabeth Esselink reminds me of that of Francoise Cactus of Stereo Total.
In the mouth a desert by indietronica artist C-Kid from Nuremberg, Germany is superb. You will especially like it if you are into artists such as DNTEL, Postal Service and Morr music label. The song construction is perfect. My only regret is that it is too short (2'40).
Future Pilot AKA vs Colditz has managed to transform the happy/reckless song Range life into a slow paced melancholic electronica version like you wouldn't expect. I guarantee you, this one will stick in your head for days.
Kicker, the six-piece band based in North London, and formed by the original drummer of Comet Gain (who also appear on this compilation),chose to cover Father to a sister about thought. I admire the effort of re-interpretation which, contrary to Range life, gave a happy twist to an originally melancholic song. I am not sure the result is as good though. I find myself missing the magical feel rendered by the pedal guitar.
The following songs are really enjoyable but can't quite qualify as ground-breaking re-interpretation:
Shoot the singer by a cherished UK band of mine called Saloon is an indie-pop gem with refreshing sweet female vocals and organs that remind me of Stereolab. Think about Mary Hansen singing "Pa pa la la" (2'18).
Comet Gain from the UK does a very enjoyable dream pop version of Ann don't cry which could have been done by Trembling Blue Stars.
One of Homesleep bands from Northern Italy called Yuppie Flu does a beautiful low-fi acoustic version of Give it a day. The chorus is particularly pleasing to the ear (1'02).
We dance by Italian folk band Pertubazione has nicely balanced sweet layers of acoustic guitars with electric leads and computerized sounds. I like the melody carried by the violin (2'51).
Elevate me later by Tiger Wood is a beautiful minimal version of the original. I like it even more than the original but why is it so short!
Dancing with the elders by Scottish band Sparesnare features hypnotizing vocals and a perfect progression.
Boxstep, the Homesleep septet band from Pittsburgh adds a country rock feel to Stop breathing along with beautiful harmonies and a nice crescendo. The second part of the song gets even better.
As for following the versions, I like them not because they are great re-interpretations but because they are great songs to start with. One could have only wished for more originality however. That's the case for Kennel district by Homesleep artist's Lenola. You can hear elements of what could be a great shoegaze version. I also love Gold soundz by British band Garlic simply because I love the original version. The same thing can be said for Cut your hair by Airport Girl.
Other versions are too close to the original versions and you will find yourself wanting to listen to the original Pavement song. That's the case for:
- Home by Bardo Pond
- Box elder by Fonda 500
- Summer babe by Homesleep's Julie's Haircut
- Trigger cut by El Goodo
- Circa by Fivehead
- Winner of by Oranger
I must mention there are some annoying versions. I may have never liked the original and/or the re-interpretation is honestly weak. The cabaret style version of Unfair by Scream C Baby for instance just doesn't move me at all. We're underused by Quickspace is annoying unless you like to hear the saw. Feed them to the linden lions by Micevice has nothing to do with the original version and feels like it is never going to end. The Silkworm version of And then is boring.
Overall, this compilation is very enjoyable and even though you probably won't find the entire 36 songs to your liking, this 2CD set is a must have for any Pavement fans. In case if you have lived through the 90's without having the privilege to witness and cherish the melodic low-fi sound of Pavement, this is also a great way to get introduced to the world of a very influential band. Finally, don't forget a great thing about compilations is the opportunity to discover new bands! My only regret is that Grounded and Major Leagues weren't selected by anyone...