Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Tortoise & Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy

The Brave & The Bold
If like me, you were hoping that this collaboration between the Bonnie One & Tortoise be along the lines of Arise Therefore (Billy’s last record to drop some beats) you will be sorely disappointed. If on the other hand, you look at this collaboration as two divergent groups of artists getting together and having some fun covering some unexpected song selections, you will find this disc enjoyable.

I don’t buy for one second that the song selections are un-ironic as the press sheet claims. Just like there is no such thing as an ironic mullet (face it dude you are white trash), there is nothing more ironic than a bunch of Indy-rock hipsters covering Elton John. Will Oldham’s whole career is based on irony. After all he is from an over-privileged background, and he pretends to be a hillbilly on his records. Like Bob Dylan, it is a façade that takes nothing away from his mostly brilliant out put. I actually don’t hate this record. I just think the un-ironic claim is a shot in the foot.

Some of the song selections provided new insights into old familiar songs. Other songs, like “Thunder Road” written by the Boss, prove that good songs are pretty hard to fuck up. Some songs which I despise when done by their original artist, “Daniel” by Elton John for example, I find enjoyable when covered by this collaboration…even humorous. I question the necessity of fucking up Will’s great voice with over distorted effects. The opening track “Cravo E Canela” has a great upbeat feel. I am not familiar with the original so I don’t know how altered this version is from the original.

Tortoise is always at its worst when it is at its wankiest like on the song “That’s Pep.” I hate Devo so I can’t really fault them because they don’t have much to work with. The song, “Some Say I Got Devil” could very easily be a long lost Palace track. “Pancho” is probably the most straight forward cover of the record.

Over all, this record is an interesting exercise. It caused me to reconsider some songs that I had previously dismissed, while other song selections I still don’t care for. I hope in the future that Tortoise & Bonny ‘Prince’ Billy will get together and work on some original material. It seems a shame to waste their talents covering other people’s songs. (Overcoat Recordings) (Dan Cohoon)