The iJamming! Download: Buffet Libre’s “Rewind” covers project
Getting a fresh start on the New Year, I decided last week to follow through on a number of the press releases that come my way, and was fascinated, if no longer surprised, by just how many free tracks were either embedded in e-mails, or supplied by direct links – most of them with invitations to be shared with online readers. It’s all a far cry from the days when publicists defiantly announced that they didn’t deal with web publications.
My travels soon took me to the Buffet Libre Rewind site, which has assembled (I’m not sure how they could afford to have commissioned) an astonishing eighty-nine cover versions (including a few remixes) of 1970s, 80s and early 90s hits by contemporary indie artists. The assortment is almost mind-bogglingly enormous. The original material extends from Iggy Pop to Bob Seger, Lord of the New Church to New Kids on the Block, Pet Shop Boys to the Style Council, Madonna to Phil Collins; the covering artists range from semi-established acts like Au Revoir Simone and Robbers On High Street to such relative unknowns as Amlyna and Division Day; and the remixers include Toiletdisco and Redial, though if you know who they are you’re doing better than me.
There’s an old saying that you shouldn’t re-record another artist’s song unless you can improve on the original, but I think that’s an inherently unfair command. I think you should probably not cover another artist’s song unless you can bring something original to the table, and I was thrilled to hear how many of the acts who’ve contributed to Buffet Libre’s Rewind were able to do just that. Check, for example, Matt Keating’s lovely piano accompaniment to, and melodic re-arrangement of, the Smiths’ “Reel Around the Fountain”; Telonius’ consciously cheesy (and none the worse for it) electro rendition of Ian Dury’s “Hit Me With your Rhythm Stick,” and Sportsday Megaphone’s delightful downtempo electronic update on the Buzzcocks’ “Ever Fallen In Love” which, not that it was their fault, somewhat compensates for that travesty by the Fine Young Cannibals.
These three are all British new-wave/classic indie rock originals, and my attraction to them perhaps speaks to my own youth. But there’s plenty here for everyone: I was especially taken by Man Like Me’s gender rewrite of Salt’n’Pepa’s classic “Lets’ Talk About Sex,” Au Revoir Simone’s OMD-like take on ELO’s “The News’ and The Old Believers’ down-home ramshackle interpretation of Talking Heads’ “Naïve Melody.” And though my life would be none the worse for not hearing what people can do with songs by Whitesnake and Bon Jovi, what the hell… cover versions are sometimes just meant to be fun. To get to the essence of all this, the Buffet Libre team have asked each act to explain why they chose their specific song, and whether they intended it as nostalgia or tribute. They’ve also included a YouTube video of the original song in question so that you can compare and contrast.
It is, clearly, far too much information in this ADHDigital age and I, for one, don’t have time to read every act’s justifications or watch the old YouTube videos. But I didn’t need to. Instead, I downloaded the Zipped file of all 89 songs, so as to listen through at my leisure. I recommend those with sufficient Hard Drive do the same, but be warned: it’s is one hell of a large file, over 750MB in size. (The MP3s are all delivered at a high quality 320 kbps.) Those who have more time to surf but less interest in loading up their computer may prefer to stream or download individual tracks from the web site. Any which way, it’s a win-win situation. I’d love to know readers’ reactions. And to get the conversation going, here are direct links to a couple of my own favorites for streaming or download: