Emmanuel Santarromana: Fab4Ever

Sometimes radical departures can produce startling results -- who would have thought that recasting a Nine Inch Nails staple as a country ballad would have been so effective? -- but sometimes they are just startling.

Emmanuel Santarromana


Label: Wagram
US Release Date: 2006-08-29
UK Release Date: Available as import

It is to be expected that if the Beatles have been perhaps the most influential force in the modern pop era, then their music would by necessity fall into the modern repertoire. In the process, the songs themselves have become something both less and more than they were originally intended to be, surpassing the circumstances of their origins and thereby becoming slightly bowdlerized and more than a little bit antiseptic. In time, as the cultures which spawned them fade into memory, all popular songs are transformed into museum pieces. The fact that the Beatles were able to actually record definitive versions of their work places them at odds with thousands of years of musical history -- it remains to be seen whether or not Sgt. Peppers and Abbey Road will still retain their aura of contemporary insistence in fifty or a hundred years, but people will probably still be singing "When I'm 64".

All of which is a rather elaborate way of saying that eventually even the Beatles will succumb to history, and it is perfectly reasonable to expect that children born today may grow up surrounded by the Beatles' music and influence without ever necessarily encountering the Beatles themselves. They'll continue to be an influence on musicians of every stripe for decades to come, so their music will retain at least some cultural cache. But, unfortunately, not all interpretations are born equally. Sometimes radical departures can produce startling results -- who would have thought that recasting a Nine Inch Nails staple as a country ballad would have been so effective? -- but sometimes they are just startling.

Such is the case, unfortunately, with Emmanuel Santarromana's Fab4Ever. I always try to keep an open mind about these things, but listening to the album, the first question that comes to mind is whether or not Santarromana has ever even heard the Beatles, or whether he hasn't just been given a pile of sheet music to interpret haphazardly. Because, honestly, if you had asked me about potential strategies to take when covering "Back in the U.S.S.R.", '80s goth-pop with coffeetable trip-hop overtones would not have been at the top of my list. Although Santarromana doesn't appear necessarily influenced by the Lord of Darkness, it is worth noting that "All Across the Universe" also features one of the worst Peter Murphy impressions I've ever heard.

But then, it would perhaps not be correct to say that the album takes too many chances with the material, as interpretations of tracks like "Come Together" and "You've Got to Hide Your Love Away" are fairly standard. No, the album's cardinal sin is just how boring it is. Even the most left-field covers are executed with an unavoidable sheen of professionalism and studio acumen. Everything is just so damn tasteful, every bass lick perfectly precise and every orchestral flourish exactly calibrated not to overwhelm the mix. Even the attempts at "rock" guitar on tracks like "Paperback Writer" and "Day Tripper" seem perfectly calculated to achieve a scientifically deduced modicum of rockingness, as played by bespectacled studio sidemen who keep their fuzz pedals in nice and orderly rows and wipe them down with windex between uses.

And furthermore, at the risk of simply adding insult to injury, it seems as if Santarromana has gone out of his way to find the least interesting vocalists in the universe. His own vocals are fairly poor -- he barely seems to know how to sing, and English is not his first language. Neither of these are necessarily deal-breakers in rock music, except for the fact that he insists on speak-singing in a soft, overly-mannered and precisely enunciated manner that goes a long way to convincing one that he memorized the lyrics phonetically. Even when he does have an interesting idea, the lame vocals sabotage the execution, as on the jazzy trip-hop version of "We Can Work It Out", which flounders as soon as he opens his mouth. Zita Lotis-Faure sings "Come Together" like Macy Gray with a hangover. Nadeah Muranda sings "Paperback Writer" like she's auditioning for a touring company of Rent, which is about as horrifically misguided as it sounds.

I could go on, but I won't. Leave it be said that this is a very poor effort, and I am sincere in my fervent hope that Santarromana never, ever be allowed within 100 yards of the Beatles' catalog again, because with Fab4Ever he has perpetrated a great violence upon it.







Jamila Woods' "SULA (Paperback)" and Creative Ancestry and Self-Love in the Age of "List" Activism

In Jamila Woods' latest single "SULA (Paperback)", Toni Morrison and her 1973 novel of the same name are not static literary phenomena. They are an artist and artwork as galvanizing and alive as Woods herself.


The Erotic Disruption of the Self in Paul Schrader's 'The Comfort of Strangers'

Paul Schrader's The Comfort of Strangers presents the discomfiting encounter with another —someone like you—and yet entirely unlike you, mysterious to you, unknown and unknowable.


'Can You Spell Urusei Yatsura' Is a Much Needed Burst of Hopefulness in a Desultory Summer

A new compilation online pulls together a generous helping of B-side action from a band deserving of remembrance, Scotland's Urusei Yatsura.


Jess Cornelius Creates Tautly Constructed Snapshots of Life

Former Teeth & Tongue singer-songwriter Jess Cornelius' Distance is an enrapturing collection of punchy garage-rock, delicate folk, and arty synthpop anthems which examine liminal spaces between us.


Sikoryak's 'Constitution Illustrated' Pay Homage to Comics and the Constitution

R. Sikoryak's satirical pairings of comics characters with famous and infamous American historical figures breathes new and sometimes uncomfortable life into the United States' most living document.


South African Folk Master Vusi Mahlasela Honors Home on 'Shebeen Queen'

South African folk master Vusi Mahlasela pays tribute to his home and family with township music on live album, Shebeen Queen.


Planningtorock Is Queering Sound, Challenging Binaries, and Making Infectious Dance Music

Planningtorock emphasizes "queering sound and vision". The music industry has its hierarchies of style, of equipment, of identities. For Jam Rostron, queering music means taking those conventions and deliberately manipulating and subverting them.


'History Gets Ahead of the Story' for Jazz's Cosgrove, Medeski, and Lederer

Jazz drummer Jeff Cosgrove leads brilliant organ player John Medeski and multi-reed master Jeff Lederer through a revelatory recording of songs by William Parker and some just-as-good originals.


A Fresh Look at Free Will and Determinism in Terry Gilliam's '12 Monkeys'

Susanne Kord gets to the heart of the philosophical issues in Terry Gilliam's 1995 time-travel dystopia, 12 Monkeys.


The Devonns' Debut Is a Love Letter to Chicago Soul

Chicago's the Devonns pay tribute the soul heritage of their city with enough personality to not sound just like a replica.


Jaye Jayle's 'Prisyn' Is a Dark Ride Into Electric Night

Jaye Jayle salvage the best materials from Iggy Pop and David Bowie's Berlin-era on Prisyn to construct a powerful and impressive engine all their own.


Kathleen Edwards Finds 'Total Freedom'

Kathleen Edwards is back making music after a five-year break, and it was worth the wait. The songs on Total Freedom are lyrically delightful and melodically charming.


HBO's 'Lovecraft Country' Is Heady, Poetic, and Mangled

Laying the everyday experience of Black life in 1950s America against Cthulhuian nightmares, Misha Green and Jordan Peele's Lovecraft Country suggests intriguing parallels that are often lost in its narrative dead-ends.


Jaga Jazzist's 'Pyramid' Is an Earthy, Complex, Jazz-Fusion Throwback

On their first album in five years, Norway's Jaga Jazzist create a smooth but intricate pastiche of styles with Pyramid.


Finding the Light: An Interview with Kathy Sledge

With a timeless voice that's made her the "Queen of Club Quarantine", Grammy-nominated vocalist Kathy Sledge opens up her "Family Room" and delivers new grooves with Horse Meat Disco.


'Bigger Than History: Why Archaeology Matters'

On everything from climate change to gender identity, archaeologists offer vital insight into contemporary issues.


'Avengers: Endgame' Culminates 2010's Pop Culture Phenomenon

Avengers: Endgame features all the expected trappings of a superhero blockbuster alongside surprisingly rich character resolutions to become the most crowd-pleasing finalés to a long-running pop culture series ever made.


Max Richter's 'VOICES' Is an Awe-Inspiring and Heartfelt Soundscape

Choral singing, piano, synths, and an "upside-down" orchestra complement crowd-sourced voices from across the globe on Max Richter's VOICES. It rewards deep listening, and acts as a global rebuke against bigotry, extremism and authoritarianism.

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.