Various Artists // Just Tell Me That You Want Me // August 14 // Hear Music
Here’s a first, me voicing my thoughts on a tribute album. I mostly tend to ignore them because they are largely irrelevant lump of overstuffed mess, combining many different artists approaching one idea and sounding like the most disjointed band on the planet. That is very much the case with Just Tell Me That You Want Me, a tribute to Fleetwood Mac. The trick is, while it has people like Lee Ranaldo, Billy Gibbons, Marianne Faithfull and such, it also has Lykke Li, Tame Impala, MGMT and Washed Out. So why not?
Before approaching Just Tell Me That You Want Me you have to ask yourself, are you already a fan of Fleetwood Mac? This compilation consists of their most famous songs from the latter half of their career. It’s not Rumours plus couple of other tracks, the compilation does have some tracks from the largely ignored period before Stevie Nicks joined the band. There are no radical changes to the sound by any of the artists here, most of the tracks stick to their original versions while being played with the sound that the covering artists show in their day jobs. Just Tell Me That You Want Me is predictable and that’s quite a shame considering just how different the employed staff here can be. Washed Out turns Straight Back into a chillwave track, Antony Hegarty removes any trace of Stevie Nicks while delivering his version of Landslide, Lykke Li handles her folked out Scandi pop on Silver Springs. Really, other than the songwriters, Fleetwood Mac have very little space on this record that makes me wonder, what’s the difference between a tribute and a half arsed cover album?
Not that Just Tell Me That You Want Me is all separate artists doing their own thing. That’s the case with the young guns. The older names here are the ones that aren’t egoistic enough to eradicate every last trace of their song’s original sound. The New Pornographers sound like they’ve been transported few decades back in time on Think About Me, which is saying something as it’s not like they were the most forward looking bunch to start with. ZZ Top’s Billy Gibbons does his own riff heavy take on Oh Well and you know what, all elitism aside it’s the hardest rocking track on here and one that retains Fleetwood Mac’s original bluesy sound while having on foot in the heavier region of rock. Marianne Faithfull herself turns Angel into one of the most beautiful moments on the record showing what the power of a voice can do. It pains me to say it but one of the only young acts who do justice to Fleetwood Mac’s sound is Best Coast, who take one of Mac’s best tracks - Rhiannon and turn it into a blues meets country hybrid, completely ignoring their usual generic indie sound. I’m almost impressed. Too many bands on here focus on doing what they do every day instead of actually paying tribute to Fleetwood Mac’s sound. Therefore these moments when they’re willing to step out of their comfort zone are rare but precious.
It’s only a shame that there aren’t more of them. 17 tracks long Just Tell Me That You Want Me features a lot of artists that you never heard of before and will probably never hear of again because they are entirely forgettable. Trixie Whitley, Karen Elson, Gardens & Villa, these are just few names who’s versions leave your mind before you can even register them. The tracklist on Just Tell Me That You Want Me is as unfocused as you can get, it’s not surprising that the album ends up sounding all over the place too. Oh and if you were wondering, Dreams is being covered by The Kills, and it’s sort of shit.
Lee Ranaldo // Between The Times & The Tides // March 26 // Matador
The way I see it, if you like Sonic Youth, we have a good chance to get along. If you don’t know who they are I might call you a twat and throw a toaster at you. During three decades of activity Sonic Youth have done everything. They were underground rebels, innovators, major label stars and a cult band. There was a certain romance to their story, they always sounded like the wet alleys of downtown New York. It’s only fitting then that their break up came not from them deciding to call it quits or artistic differences. The family duo of Thurston Moore and Kim Gordon announced their plans for divorce which ended up divorcing one of the greatest rock bands this planet has ever seen. Since then we had Moore release some of his usual acoustic oriented music and now Lee Ranaldo is releasing his new album. An album that could easily be a Sonic Youth album.
Ranaldo has never been the one to shy away from the familiar formula on his solo albums and his latest release Between The Times & The Tides is no different. The music on here sounds like it could’ve been on any of Sonic Youth’s noughties’ releases. That also means that there is a distinct lack of experimentation and seeing as this LP mirrors Ranaldo’s main band in both songwriting and aesthetic, it feels like someone trying to recreate the magic that can’t be recaptured, rather than trying to branch out, try new things and start building his own solo career. Ranaldo feels happy being in Moore/Gordon shadow even when they are nowhere near his record.
Sure, while Between The Times & The Tides makes me facepalm with tracks like Xtina As I Knew Her which sum up everything that was wrong about Sonic Youth, Ranaldo is not dealing with purely writing the next logical Sonic Youth album. Between The Times & The Tides is pop, but it doesn’t open itself up easily. On one side it’s the album that could be called an easy one to get into which is not something one would usually say about Sonic Youth related material. On the other hand Ranaldo is toning down the familiar and boring formula even further until it starts sounding borderline MOR. Noughties were never the best decade for Sonic Youth, it’s disappointing to see that this is where Ranaldo is picking up. The added pop edge seems forced as the record doesn’t really pack anything that could be called a hook, his lyrics still feel like stream of consciousness rants and has more cliched lines than your average Demi Lovato song. What it does is combining the familiar sound with classical pop songwriting. The closer Tomorrow Never Comes references The Beatles’ career highlight Tomorrow Never Knows not only in its title but in the drumbeat and backward guitar sounds. It’s a first time that someone from such an influential band as Sonic Youth is ripping off someone else so clearly. Maybe it’s a sign to stop.
There’s nothing overly offensive about Lee Ranaldo’s new record other than how mediocre and derivative it is. It’s clear that Ranaldo did not want the band to split up as his new LP tries to recapture the lost magic that just can’t be recaptured by just him alone. It has been a long time since anyone from Sonic Youth played with their pop influences without any experimentation whatsoever. It’s only a shame that on Between The Times & The Tides Ranaldo feels old and jaded in the worst way possible. Let it go man, the journey is over.