Various Artists, Morning Becomes Eclectic


By Steve Lichtenstein

Yes, please call it eclectic. The popular L.A. radio station’s compilation of acts that performed on KCRW’s morning show is far reaching, diverse, and pleasantly irritating. The artists span the spectrum of styles (Cake, Freestylers, Sixpence None the Richer, Angelique Kidjo), genres (rock, dance, folk, pop, bizarre), and notoriety (Beth Orton, PJ Harvey, Air, Semisonic, Pink Martini, and Brad Mehldau). This mess allows for as much intrigue as it does disaster, but somehow compensates for itself. When you feel like you might find yourself a three-song groove to niche yourself in, you come across a stumper. When you think you’re lost and confused, disoriented and looking for water, you find that floating bottle of sandy, Pacific Perrier. Come on, live a little.

This being said, it’s still easy to understand why KCRW can get away with this silliness so early in the morning: you want a little absurdity every now and then when you wake up. And except for the die hard talk-radio junkies, anything like music is substantially rewarding in the morning, and a pleasant enough diversion from the immature chicanery of generic morning shows. And this, all in all, is something like music. Angelique Kidjo’s opening “Blewu,” a stunning African acapella ditty, is utterly out of place and wonderfully mesmerizing, reeking like an outtake from a Graceland B-side. Beth Orton croons and strums like Sinead O’Connor in the gorgeous “Sugar Boy,” and Buffalo Daughter’s Pavement-esque “Socks, Drugs & Rock ‘n’ Roll” plods along in simple irreverence. Even with the relative fluff that usually rides along with Sixpence None the Richer’s “Kiss Me,” the live acoustic rendition firms it ups nicely. And Lyle Lovett’s (“Bears”) and PJ Harvey’s (“Is This Desire?”) efforts are always worthy.

But even with the theory of embracing any sort of music in the morning, there is still a fine line of what isn’t going to fly. So then comes the questions: How does the Freestylers in-your-face “Dance Hall Vibes” work it’s way in between the bubbly “Kiss Me” and Semisonic’s catchy and quite good “Secret Smile?” Do we really need a flat cover of Natalie Ibrugilia’s violently infectious “Torn?” (Ednaswap) Why isn’t Mercury Rev (“Opus 40”) more well known? What does Morcheeba (“The Sea”) mean? John Martyn’s lame “Gory Box” and Joe Henry’s drab “Monkey” don’t really accomplish anything, not to mention that they’re not so eclectic. All right, that wasn’t so much a question, but I imagine you get the idea.

In the end, you need to take it for what it’s worth, and gauge for yourself just how eclectic you want your morning commute to be, keeping in mind road-rage, balancing coffee and cigarette while steering the wheel, and that whole pesky driving thing. It’s your gamble, and though I’ve been watching you from your bedroom window, it’s a safe bet that you know yourself better than I do. Remember though: it is music.

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