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:-
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:-
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:-
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.