‘And I’ll Scratch Yours’ was originally scheduled for release three years ago and is the almost-complete companion album to Peter Gabriel’s 2010 LP ‘Scratch My Back’, on which he collected distinctive cover versions of tracks by Randy Newman, Neil Young, Radiohead, Paul Simon and others.
Aside from Radiohead and Young, everyone that was Gabriel-ised on the original album returns the favour here. The result is a slightly odd, somewhat disjointed response, and one that serves to highlight just how daunting it is to tackle a cover from the former Genesis frontman’s catalogue.
By rights, Arcade Fire’s accomplished strangeness should be perfectly suited to approaching a Gabriel standard – but their ‘Games Without Frontiers’ sounds uncomfortable and awkward, and not in the way they’ve made their own.
Magnetic Fields’ Stephen Merritt turns in a fey take on ‘Not One Of Us’, sounding like one of synth-pop’s New Romantic Bowie-loving also-rans. Elsewhere, Elbow, Bon Iver and the beguiling Regina Spektor offer authentic but overly deferential versions.
The best tracks are those that take a sledgehammer to the Gabriel originals completely. Lou Reed treats ‘Solsbury Hill’ to a feedback-soaked dirge, Brian Eno goes all menacing on ‘Mother Of Violence’, and David Byrne takes ‘I Don't Remember’ off in an emphatic, funky electronic disco direction.
Words: Mat Smith
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