Under Review: The Hotrats – Turn Ons

I’ve made no secret of my love for covers.  As great as it is to hear brand new songs, the reinterpretation of classics never ceases to entertain.  It’s become commonplace for even the strongest songwriters (Cat Power and Robyn Hitchcock are particularly notable) to pepper their albums with some of their own favorite songs, at once showing off their influences as well as their imagination and creativity in putting their own spin on the songs.  What remains a novelty (and not always in a bad way) is the all-covers record.  Tributes to individual artists are one thing, as they quite vividly show one musician’s reverence for another.  The all-covers records that feature songs from a variety of eras play like jukeboxes, and take skilled creators to pull them off suitably.  Madness have done it, and so have The Beautiful South, but it’s David Bowie’s 1973 album Pin Ups that serves as the most overt influence on the style of The Hotrats’ debut, Turn Ons.  The members of The Hotrats, like the songs they perform, aren’t exactly newcomers; Gaz Coombes and Danny Goffey are better known as the lead singer and drummer (respectively) from Britpop favorites Supergrass.  Their new project also features the work of producer Nigel Godrich, who’s produced the heck out of a lot of mid-‘90s British pop.

Turn Ons features songs by bands and artists who are ostensibly some of Supergrass’ greatest influences.  Some of the choices are pretty self-explanatory: Elvis Costello, the Sex Pistols, The Kinks and, yes, David Bowie are represented with both well known (“Pump It Up”) and deeper (“Big Sky”) cuts from their catalogues.  The versions of songs by bands whose influence on Supergrass is less evident is where Turn Ons gets interesting.  The Doors’ “The Crystal Ship” and Squeeze’s “Up The Junction” are pleasant if not groundbreaking.  For the most part, Turn Ons plays like a bunch of demos or B-sides, with the covers never really approaching the quality or character of the originals.  When Gaz and Danny try to rearrange the songs, the results are iffy at best (the acoustic take on “(You Gotta) Fight For Your Right (To Party!)”) and lifeless at worst (the joyless, too fast take on “The Lovecats”).  These versions, in particular, show that The Hotrats are ambitious enough to mix up some of their favorites, but are perhaps too afraid to make a cover that’d trump the original.  If nothing else, though, Gaz and Davy sure sound like they’re having fun, which was probably the whole point of this venture anyway.  Still, I’m not entirely convinced that this hero-worship needed to be committed to record.

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~ by E. on February 5, 2010.

One Response to “Under Review: The Hotrats – Turn Ons”

  1. Some of the songs sound as if they never heard the original and were just presented with the lyrics and a clean slate. Astute review, as usual.

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