VARIOUS ARTISTS - More Songs For Life
The first Songs For Life compilation album was already a rather painful experience. Fighting AIDS should be the entire planet's concern, and that's why it always hurts to have to review a well meaning but poorly executed compilation. With More Songs For Life, Jean-Claude Schlim delivers a successor that at least is filled to the brim with music, unlike the short predecessor. This time, it's more than just a compilation to donate money to Stop AIDS Now, it's also meant as the soundtrack for Schlim's forthcoming movie House Of Boys which is set in the homosexual scene of the mid-Eighties, thus setting the theme to mostly cover versions of songs from that period.
The album starts with Younited Soulz covering Cindy Lauper's Time After Time, replacing the original's despair with a boring acid jazz meets hip hop with a terrible accent. Toxkäpp are doing slightly better, but then their rendition of Madness' One Step Beyond is so close to the original that it's just as disposable, maybe ok for starting a concert, but not really working on a compilation as representing the band. Low Density Corporation offer their version of Visage's Fade To Grey, sorely lacking the original's cold new wave atmosphere. Jérôme vs. Taste T covers the classic Video Killed The Radio Star by the Buggles, much to the point but unfortunately without the biting irony of the original. Big Apple do a fair version of the Pet Shop Boys' West End Girls, although never daring to add a personal touch. The first highlight is the Cure's Boys Don't Cry, punked by the Last Millennium Suckers, who love to brand themselves as death punks, which makes sense on this precise cover version, with Jenny's vocals for once really hitting the point, and the guitars transforming the new waviness of the original into mid-Eighties California punk. Another Cindy Lauper song, Girls Just Wanna Have Fun, is done by Black&White, transforming one of the coolest girly songs of the Eighties into a soulless club song. Shanu plays Sex Junkies, an original composition, totally irrelevant and boring house music. And then you get the album's highlight. Never heard of Norma Minor? It is a new band by Nora Schlesser and Marion Thill, the latter having been the bass player for Clean State in the past. They cover the most sensuous and girliest pop anthem of the Seventies, Yes Sir, I Can Boogie by Baccara, into a schizophrenic post-everything song, combining luscious parts with their very own post-industrial version of the chorus, with some techno elements. This band could be great one day. I was also looking forward to Principal Trade Center, the big beat electro dub techno side-project of the Chief Mart's brothers. At first this was apparently supposed to become a Talk Talk cover version, but finally everything was so deconstructed that the song became their own. Dystrophy is cool, danceable, sounding industrial and retro-futuristic at the same time. Would even work better on an entire album with such material.
Time for a new paragraph, because we just slaughtered the first ten bands. The second part opens with Depeche Mode's The Policy Of Truth by DJ Sermeq, who is none other than Claude Michels, ex-vocalist for Schweinepest. While electronically interesting, the vocals don't work that well on this song, sounding to detached from the original. Mack Murphy & The Inmates cover the Eightiest song ever, Pretty In Pink from the Psychedelic Furs, which also was the title song for that movie with that mouth-breathing red-haired actress who only stars in B-movies these days. MM's version is dull, because it's only a poorly recorded demo, with lame drum computers... Why add a song to a compilation when it's not even finished? Finally we also get a first official recording from 6Volt9, covering Camouflage's Love Is A Shield. This has also been done much better by Bitume. While there is a lot of talent hidden inside 6Volt9, the acoustic band of members from Drive Until He Sleeps, Orange Squad and tVESLA, they aren't focussed enough yet on this song, dragging it for more than 5 minutes. Liba is cult. She's so Eighties looking, and her music is that kind of awful Eighties pop rock with really bad lyrics. Remember Laura Branigan? She died, and I wouldn't be surprised if it was because of her really bad music, sounding like the soundtrack for a glossy porn movie. But it's getting worse with Minos, a Cape Verdian hip hop producer. OK, maybe it's not that bad, but I really dislike this French sounding hip hop. Then Younited Soulz are back to torture us with an original composition this time, with Black Man Uncle Rich on vocals. He was the guy people loved so much on the first Songs For Life compilation although I never understood why. Be Free is a funky song with ragamuffin vocals, something you would hardly notice on the radio, except for the well meant but ultimately really lame lyrics that sound like an educational advertisement. Icehouse's Hey Little Girl is metallised beyond recognition by Luminous, a project by Soul Season and Clean State musicians. Although it's far from the original, it is well done and one of the compilation's highlights, combining groovy metal with charismatic vocals, reaching catharsis in the psychedelic chorus. And now you might as well stop listening to the CD, because from here on it's really only getting worse. Hotn Devils, a project featuring RTL's Thorunn on vocals, cover Real Life's Send Me An Angel, not a really dreadful version, but also nothing special. The album ends with two bonus tracks (as compared to what?, is there also an 18 songs edition available). Ron Stevens and Sascha Ley do Hildegard Knef's Für mich soll's rote Rosen regnen. Wasn't this song covered by Extrabreit in the Eighties? The version on this CD is the kind of pretentious pseudo acid jazz you get when a musician, whose talents are just sufficient to write advertisements for the radio, teams up with a local actress who might be a talented café jazz vocalist but who is sounding totally wrong on this CD. Even worse is the closing Sexy Piano by saxophonist Fernand Neumann, whose song is meant to sound sad and desperate but ultimately is a combination of coffee advertisement and new age boredom.
And if you finally take the time to look at the list of sponsors, most of them hideous capitalist companies whose sole goal is to strip teenagers of their monthly allowances, then you wonder if they participate because they actually want to fight AIDS, or if they use the opportunity to improve their image. I suggest if you really want to fight AIDS, you better not buy this album, but make a donation of 20 euros or more to Stop AIDS Now. At least that donation can be added to your yearly tax declaration.
More Songs For Life suffers from the same ailments as its predecessor. Two great songs (LMS, Norma Minor), two good ones (PTC, Luminous), some bearable material (Toxkäpp, LDC, DJ Sermeq, 6Volt9) and for the rest forgettable output don't justify buying this album. I know it's for a good cause, but wouldn't it make more sense to make two different compilations, one aimed at the club-house-hiphop scene and one at the rock scene. You can't except so much tolerance as to like even half the bands on this album.