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Various Artists

Guilt By Association Vol. 2

(Engine Room; US: 17 Feb 2009; UK: n/a)

Yet another batch of “ironic” covers of songs whose cheese factor comes automatically designated on the grounds of either age or popularity, the second volume of Engine Room’s dismal Guilt By Association series trots out another group of low-wattage indie rockers to reign superior over songs you have already heard far too many times in their original versions.  Supposedly that is the whole point, but what nearly everyone here forgets is that the best spins on songs as culturally omnipresent as Billy Joel’s “We Didn’t Start the Fire” or Kanye West’s “Can’t Tell Me Nothing” (here mauled by the Forms and Francis and the Lights, respectively) are the ones that manage to extract the hidden moments of poetry within debased artifacts, a feat that, of the 14 acts here, only Frightened Rabbit manages to come anywhere close to pulling off with their typically plaintive take on N-Trance’s barely remembered dance hit “Set You Free”. The rest of this set veers from the typically banal—the umpteenth cover of Soft Cell’s version of “Tainted Love” and what is at least the third male-sung take on Katy Perry’s noxious-in-any-setting “I Kissed a Girl”—to the downright unlistenable, like Takka Takka’s drearily melodramatic run through Phil Collins’ “In the Air Tonight”, Lowry’s smirky jaunt through Toto’s “Africa” or, most infuriatingly, Rafter’s surgical extraction of any trace of melody from OMD’s great “If You Leave”. Please, hold off on Volume Three.

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Frightened Rabbit - "Set You Free" (N-Trance cover)
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