LOOK AT ME, MA……

Flimflamfan, in leaving behind a very welcome comment just over a week ago, stated an opinion that the Sonic Youth take on Superstar was the definitive version of the song and that the LP on which it featured was a great record.

The LP in question is If I Were A Carpenter, a compilation album released on A&M Records in September 1994 featuring 14 ‘alternative’ acts covering songs associated with The Carpenters. The acts, in alphabetical order, were, American Music Club, Babes in Toyland, Bettie Serveet, Cracker, The Cranberries, Dishwalla, 4 Non Blondes, Grant Lee Buffalo, Johnette Napolitano with Marc Moreland, Matthew Sweet, Redd Kross, Sheryl Crow, Shonen Knife and Sonic Youth, (and, yes, I did have to look up a few of them as they were names not known to me).

Going by on-line reviews on the likes of Amazon, it’s fair to say that It’s an album that seems to delight and disgust in equal measures – certainly those who bought it thinking it would be a straightforward sort of tribute record seemed to be appalled and have sent it straight to the local charity store.

The music critics were, by and large, much more forgiving, with Stephen Cook over at allmusic being fairly typical with comments that:-

”….this CD gets it right most of the time…..Matthew Sweet, the Cranberries, Sheryl Crow, Grant Lee Buffalo, and Cracker deliver the most straightforward interpretations here….., with the same amount of moody tenderness that made the originals so effective. On the other end of the spectrum, Sonic Youth gives “Superstar” a nicely claustrophobic and feedback-addled turn, while Bettie Serveet brings its Neil Young-inspired guitar attack to bear on “For All We Know.” On other fronts, Shonen Knife and Babes in Toyland contribute giddy lo-fi readings and Dishwalla and 4 Non Blondes go in for brooding swagger. Finally, American Music Club and Redd Kross get special mention for their tailored-made and respective helpings of despair and dreamy ’70s sensibility on “Goodbye to Love” and “Yesterday Once More.”

Flimflamfan said that he/she was particularly taken by the Shonen Knife contribution – it wasn’t one that I knew but on their recommendation, and the fact it was described in the above review as a giddy lo-fi reading, I had to track it down:-

mp3 : Shonen Knife – Top of The World

I had forgotten just how easy it is for Shonen Knife to put a smile on my face. I don’t actually have all that much of their output in the collection other than on cassette compilations put together by friends or via CDs given away with magazines, so the request is…..does anyone fancy turning their hand to an ICA? I’m sure there’s plenty other tracks as listenable as these:-

mp3 : Shonen Knife – Twist Barbie
mp3 : Shonen Knife –  I Am A Cat

I do have another superb cover version of today’s tune by The Carpenters – one which was put out as an additional track on a CD single back in 1992:-

mp3 : Sugarcubes – Top of The World

Not a cloud in the sky, got the sun in my eye….no way this song could have been written in Scotland in the middle of winter….or even in the middle of March.

JC

6 thoughts on “LOOK AT ME, MA……

  1. Not heard that Shonen Knife cover for a long time. I agree with
    the mighty Flimflamfan’s assessment.

    Good also to be reminded of American Music Club’s superb
    version of ‘Goodbye To Love’.

    Will check out Red Kross’ ‘Yesterday Once More’ and see how
    it compares to Cinerama’s take.

    Great post, JC – hooray for The Carpenters.

  2. Shonen Knife’s contribution is the best track on that compilation. I was once asked what they were like by someone unfamiliar with their work. My best attempt was “er, The Ramones, only Japanese and female.” I know, but see if you can do better.

  3. In this increasingly self-identifying non-binary world perhaps my personal pronoun should be it? Some who know me may spell that with a silent t (tit) others with a silent sh …

    I would agree with Stephen Cook’s assessment of the LP but perhaps not with his choice of hits and misses.

    At the time I was a little disappointed that the Johnette Napolitano/Marc Moreland “Hurting Each Other” wasn’t quite the thrill I’d hoped for. I adore Johnette Napolitano’s vocals with Concrete Blonde (see Joey). However, soon after I saw it as the stupendous Phil Spector styled masterpiece that it is. I listened as I typed. It remains thrilling.

    I don’t always like each track on a tribute LP but I do like that the fact that such LPs exist. That bands can, in some way, acknowledge what has come before with their interpretations of a much loved song is welcome. Often in doing so bands have enhanced my own musical appreciation of their own music. “I’m Your Fan” and “Heaven and Hell” No. 1 are 2 such examples.

    As for Shonen Knife I would urge readers that if they have not previously sought them out to do so. How many female, power-pop, punk trios have been around this long and been so consistently magnificent? I can’t think of any. Live they are a delight. JC may like to know that they light up a room with an infectious smile that beams brightly long after the gig has stopped.

  4. I’m with Flimflamfan on the comment re exploring singers and bands output having been introduced to them via a tribute album….and ‘I’m Your Fan’ worked both ways for me as it also helped me realise how great a singer-songwriter Leonard Cohen was!!

  5. Let’s not forget that Shonen Knife also had a tribute album dedicated to them in 1989 – Every Band Has A Shonen Knife That Loves Them – that includes contributions from Red Kross, L7, Babes In Toyland and Sonic Youth.

    I must admit, as a lifelong fan of Shonen Knife, I hardly ever listen to it – even preferring their (inevitably scattershot) two remix albums. Supermix and Ultramix contain remixes from Alec Empire, Buffalo Daughter, Towa Tei and YMO’s Ryuichi Sakamo.

    Oh, and bis!

    There’s also a Sterolab remix contained on one b-side (and, on another, a cover of Do The Bartman. How can anyone not love Shonen Knife?!)

    I’ve seen them so many times over the past *gulps* 25 years and it’s always a blast. They were signed to Creation Records’ subsidiary August Records in the early ’90s and I remember reading Noel Gallagher slagging them off as a novelty band. But I’m of a mind that – flip as they may be – songs about food, t-shirts, games and cats are more truthful and resonant to me than the nonsense rhymes he comes up with.

    They’re currently signed to Damnably in the UK who are also putting out music (and putting on gigs) from the also excellent Otoboke Beaver.

    Has anyone else offered to do an ICA yet? That said, a quick check of my iTunes reveals that I have over 300 songs by Shonen Knife (YIKES! They’re catching up to The Fall…). So I might not be best placed to choose 10…

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