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The transformations record
on 19 June 2000
A collection of cover versions might suggest a paucity of ideas but it would be more accurate to label this as 'The Transformations Record' such is the radical way Chan Marshall deconstructs and reinterprets these songs. This tendency is illustrated by the opening '(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction'. While Devo had turned The Rolling Stones' slurred howl of grievance into a mechanised, emotionless recital, Marshall imbues it with an understated sense of tragedy. Similarly, 'I Found A Reason' provides a contrast from Lou Reed's dry, ironic delivery as, accompanied by a solitary piano, the song becomes a fervent hymn filled with yearning. Wilfuly perverse, Marhsall even covers one of her own songs, 'In This Hole'.
The entire album makes for uncomfortable listening; on 'Troubled Waters, she appears to be grappling with demons. The uncluttered instrumentation, such as the blues-style guitar-picking of 'Salty Dog', helps to focus attention upon her hushed but emotion-ladened voice. Another dalliance with Bill Callahan, 'Red Apples', is marginally less breathtaking than her version of 'Bathysphere' on the earlier 'What Would The Community Think' but his stark songs are ideally suited to Marshall's vocal style. Yet in these strengths lie her weakness. Although her mournful delivery adds pathos to the vaguely optimistic songs like 'I Found A Reason' and 'Sea of Love', it does make the album's mood one-dimensional.