She Loves You – Studio M Live
Review by Joe del Tufo
Studio M Live
Covers albums are strange and difficult beasts. One inevitably ends up either trying to stamp their style onto songs that have already been claimed by another, or else they try to imitate the existing style and youíre left to wonder- why bother? Tori Amosí Strange Little Boys was almost a total failure, as she tried to approach the songs with a conceptual thread (some might argue an agenda) in mind, and ended up butchering a good number of classics. Placeboís recent covers release (included as a bonus disc on their recent Sleeping With Ghosts release) was a surprising success- stamping their indelible sound onto such seemingly unassailable tracks as Kate Bushís Running Up That Hill and The Smithís Bigmouth Strikes Again. The Twilight Singers, hot on the heels of their drippingly sexy Blackberry Belle release, contribute a very eclectic mix tape with She Loves You. Does it work? Yeah, for the most part.
Where the Afghan Whigs covers ep Uptown Avondale was mostly a collection of Motown classics recorded in the style the band were already performing live, She Loves You pulls from a more diverse collection of classic and barely released (Martina Topley-Birdís Too Tough To Die only came out stateside last month) recordings. Interestingly for such an alpha male frontman, many of the tracks were recorded (or at least made famous) by women- Topley-Bird, Bjork, Billie Holliday, Hope Sandoval, Mary J. Blige, Stevie Nicks and Nina Simone are all represented here. Classics like Strange Fruit and Summertime are odd choices that seem to have no relation or possible influence to Dulli, and are generally the weaker links on the disc. The two outstanding reinventions are Dulliís rousing version of Hyperballad and their aching take on Black Is The Color Of My True Loveís Hair that we had seen on a previous Twilight Singers ep. Both of these tracks are textbook examples of a band adding their unique flavor to tracks that already stand well on their own. Similarly powerful is Topley-Birdís Too Tough To Die, which certainly sounds more like a Dulli original here than a cover. In fact, having heard it first, it is Topley-Birdís version that seems like a cover of a Twilight Singers song. Real Love is the surprise on the disc. A track that I was largely sick of when it ruled the streets back in 1992 is resurrected and enhanced by Jon Skibicís soaring guitar and Dulliís effectively altered vocals. Dulli gets back to his roots (or at least the approach taken on Uptown Avondale) as the disc closes out with inspired renditions of A Love Supreme, Please Stay (One You Go Away) and Black Is The Color Of My True Loveís Hair. A Love Supreme and Please Stay made a wonderful high-octane medley during the first Singers tour, and these versions are faithful to that live energy.
Speaking of Kate Bush, the Twilight Singers cover of her Cloudbusting is notably absent from She Loves You, in spite of having been recorded back in March for these sessions. My understanding is that there will be yet another covers release after the next Singerís studio album, planned for release in the spring. Perhaps weíll get some of those killer Outkast covers the band have been performing live.
This release was a real grower for me. The first few listens left me with that big Why Bother that most of these cover albums do. Repeated listens opened new doors on almost every track, as if the Dulliís black soul slowly infected my subconscious. If youíre a Twilight Singers/ Whigs fan this is an easy and obvious purchase. Outsiders may find these gravelly interpretations to be a bit much, or may actually find a strange affinity to this rough, smoky collection of uniquely selected classics. Regardless, for fans of Dulliís work, it seems like thereís much more to come with the new studio album in the spring, a Gutter Twins release (largely previewed here with Laneganís vocal duet on the bluesy Hard Time Killing Floor), the next covers release, and a live DVD release from the first leg of the Blackberry Belle tour expected to street in the fall. Also check back to Studio M for a webcast recorded at the North Star Bar in Philadelphia in April.