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Disappointing - a real mixed bag
on 4 October 2013
I was looking forward to this album tremendously, but worried by what I'd heard from some of the EPs. Gabriel's approach had guaranteed some very high quality participants, and it's the very fact that these are A-listers that makes this mixed bag of an album a bit of a disappointment. (Notable absentees are Radiohead - a bit nobby of them, really.)
High points are David Byrne's retro-funk version of I Don't Remember - he makes the song his own; Bon Iver and Regina Spektor's presentable covers of Us-period tracks; and Elbow's version of Mercy Street, which manages to sound minimalist without sounding like a knocked-off demo. I love Randy Newman, so I'll give Big Time a pass, but it seems a bit half-hearted, as does Paul Simon's Biko.
Low points include Eno's very odd reworking of Mother of Violence. I assume they're mates, so I'm not sure why you'd take a friend's pleasant, lilting song, and turn it into a tuneless drone. Drone also covers Shock The Monkey, by Joseph Arthur, who at least is faithful to the tune. And Feist manage to ruin Don't Give Up by mucking up the structured rhythms of Gabriel's lyrics ... he worked on the scansion for a reason, and Feist ignore it completely.
But if you hate someone - I mean, really, really dislike them - play them Lou Reed's god-awful assault on Solsbury Hill. It's very nearly unlistenable. He abandones the tune, and the heavily-distorted guitar over a funereal tempo leaves the whole thing in ruins - to the extent you wonder if it isn't just an eff-off to Gabriel.