March 08, 2005

Various Artists "A Houseguest's Wish"

On the surface, the concept seems a bit peculiar, if not a little bit monotonous: an album with nineteen bands covering the same song? Sounds kinda absurd. But then again Wire--the composers of this song, "Outdoor Miner"--have often done things that superficially seem quite absurd. But A Houseguest's Wish, absurd as it may seem, serves as perhaps the best Wire tribute to date. In a way, it's an odd song to fixate on; it was the only pop "hit" Wire ever had, and had it not been removed from the British charts due to an issue of payola, Wire's career might have been substantially different.

Though most of the bands are from the dreampop/shoegazing scene, there are some surprises.. Two classic versions appear here; Lush's version, taken from an early 1990's B-side, is pure dreampop heaven, while Flying Saucer Attack's take is harsh yet dreamy in only the way that FSA can be. It's nice that these have been rescued from obscurity, but they've got clear competition. Should turn in a relaxing instrumental version that's really mellow in a lounge-jazz kind of way. Typewriter's take is as poppy and perhaps the most faithful. Above the Orange Trees turns it into the best song Coldplay never wrote. Swervedriver's Adam Franklin turns it into a beautiful, sad acoustic number. Boy Division turns it into a punk-rock slaughter. Kick On The Floods turns it into a Crosby, Stills and Nash-meets-Grandaddy styled 70s rock number. Titania turns up the bliss and make it even dreamier than Lush's perfect-pop version. Laura Walting turns in an indie-pop version that's almost too twee to believe. The Meeting Places turn in a stoned-out Dinosaur Jr-esque rock version that sounds great, too.

A Houseguest's Wish is an amazing concept to an amazing band's amazing song, and it's nowhere near as monotonous or dull as you might expect. The variety of styles, the variety of the bands and the love that all of these acts have for the song make this tribute even more special. This is a labor of love, and it's a rather fun listen.

--Joseph Kyle

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