Tuesday, February 05, 2008


Song: Umbrella
Artist: Biffy Clyro
Album: Radio 1's Live Lounge: Volume 2

A couple months ago I wrote a piece about a BBC Radio 1 compilation that celebrated the 40th anniversary of the station called “Radio 1: Established 1967” which was comprised of songs, one from each year of existence, as covered by major acts that are popular in the U.K. today. I really liked the collection and recentlyhttp://www.blogger.com/img/gl.link.gif have also been enjoying another Radio 1 compilation entitled “Radio 1’s Live Lounge: Volume 2” which was released just a couple weeks after the aforementioned compilation last October.

Jo Whiley’s Radio 1 show is a popular live in-studio show in which currently popular artists come in and play live, sometimes stripped down acoustic versions of their songs as well as other popular songs from other artists. At best, an artist will re-work a popular song in their own style and do something different with it. One of my favorite Live Lounge covers was the Scissor Sister’s piano based of Franz Ferdinand’s “Take Me Out.” As in this case, some of these covers can heighten a song, making something pop and seemingly frivolous actually gain some weight. I recall feeling the same when hearing Travis’ acoustic take on Britney’s “Baby One More Time” which was popularly traded in the days of Napster. I remember reading that they wanted to prove how good the actual song was by simplifying it down to just acoustic guitar… and it is ultimately totally effective.

In that vein for this compilation we have Scottish rock act Biffy Clyro doing an acoustic take on Rihanna’s “Umbrella.” It’s simple, straightforward, and actually kind of beautiful. 2007’s most ubiquitous single shows some hidden strength in this version, the words more clear without the driving beat and Jay-Z interruption. It could have been snarky, and devoid of actual feeling… a joke cover that certainly happens within the Live Lounge format. On this compilation alone we have The Frey doing a silly, demeaning take on Shakira’s “Hips Don’t Lie,” including dry, spoken word take on Wyclef’s more energetic cameo that is simply done to make the original sound ridiculous. The Enemy’s take on Madonna’s “Hung Up” is also too jokey to take seriously, or want to hear more than once. Maybe I’m just a “if you don’t have anything nice to say don’t say anything at all” kind of guy.

Paolo Nutini do a nice job with Amy Winehouse’s “Rehab, and the Artic Monkeys give a laid-back rock vibe to her “You Know I’m No Good.” Bloc Party turn Nelly Furtado’s “Say it Right” into a brooding Cure-like ballad, and KT Tunstall takes their “The Prayer” and… well she does a pretty faithful cover, nothing really new or interesting… but it’s cool. There are cringe-worthy moments though… as 30 Seconds to Mars turn Kanye West’s “Stronger” into a slow Goth-lite ballad. Just another example of “how does this band still have a career?” Many artists do stripped down live versions of their work, my favorites being Calvin Harris’ acoustic version of “The Girls,” and Robyn’s piano version of “With Every Heartbeat.”

If you’re a covers fan this compilation will be a lot of fun for you. I haven’t heard Volume 1, but from the track list it seems like more of the same. I might just be checking that out…


Biffy Clyro’s live version of “Umbrella”

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