Sunday, 5 September 2010

Good Morning, Mr Gabriel

Renowned mentalist Fever Ray is soon to release a cover of Peter Gabriel's Mercy Street, this being the year that Gabriel released Scratch My Back, an album of orchestral-and-vocal covers of 12 artists, with an intended sister-release, I'll Scratch Yours, in which the artists each cover one of his songs.

Trouble is, Peter Gabriel covered neither Fever Ray, nor Karin Dreijer Andersson's more famous band, The Knife. It's a tad ironic that someone would voluntarily choose to cover one of his songs, when he has had difficulty getting some artists to return the favour for his own project. While some (Stephen Merritt, David Byrne, Paul Simon, Lou Reed, Bon Iver, Elbow) have recorded tracks (released as double a-sides with the corresponding track on Scratch My Back), others (reportedly David Bowie, Radiohead, The Arcade Fire) have been a little less forthcoming. Of those released, Lou Reed's distortion-drenched version of Solsbury Hill is a clear winner, which is rather apt given that Gabriel and Reed's wife Laurie Anderson once scratched one another's backs when Gabriel did guest vocals on Excellent Birds on Anderson's Mister Heartbreak, which later appeared in a different arrangement on Gabriel's So.

It's long perplexed me that Gabriel does not receive as much hipster kudos as other contemparaneous artists, with his often dark, bleak, paranoid masterpiece third self-titled album deserves to be a revivalist hit on a par with Paul Simon's Graceland or Talking Heads' Remain In Light. Perhaps this is because of many people's (clearly misplaced) misgivings about Genesis or his mega-success with So tying him to the 80s, particularly embedded in the famous boombox raised aloft scene in Cameron Crowe's Say Anything (I feel that in real life Lloyd Dobler would have received a restraining order). My feeling was that perhaps the Scratch My Back/I'll Scratch Yours project would correct this, though its apparent failings point to no. Perhaps the Fever Ray effect will be a winner though. At the very least we can agree it's preferable to Bon Iver.

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