Monday, December 04, 2006

What is Love?

Looking at the charts this week reveals that the year is coming to an end; we’ve got greatest hits collections from Abba, U2, Oasis, Charlatans, Slade, Depeche Mode, Sugababes, Moby, Girls Aloud and, um, David Cassidy. It’s like the music industry has broken up for Christmas – do you think they brought in games on the last day?

I’m not a great fan of greatest hits collections; I see no joy in buying an album where you know exactly what you’re going to get. It reminds me of my favourite Alan Partidge joke, clearly out of his depth, he’s talking about music with the porter who works in the hotel he’s staying at. The porter says he loves the Beatles (along with a string of bands Partridge has clearly never heard of), clutching at the one name he recognises, Partridge nods sagely. The porter probes as to which is his favourite Beatles album – there’s a pause as Partidge is removed from his small comfort zone; ‘The Best of The Beatles’ he says almost as a request to retain a morsel of credibility. It’s sharply observed; greatest hits albums are for the unimaginative and risk averse. They might buy less shite, but equally, they never get to discover truly great new music.

Ironically The Beatles have released a compilation recently – Love. Normally I wouldn’t be interested. It’s music for Cirque du Soleil and it’s all their hits. Great music, cynically applied, it’s not nice. Buy the real albums, that’s what I would say.

Then I heard an interview with, I think, Giles Martin, who was explaining that it was a non-stop mix of Beatles tracks very much in the spirit of mash-up culture. This sounded interesting, though I should have been wary; what he actually said was ‘It follows the culture of bootlegs or mash ups’ at this point he paused Partidge-esque though way out of his depth ‘or boot-mashes as they’re often called.’

The paper reviewed it favourably, mentioning that it follows on from Dangermouse’s Grey Album (a spectacularly illegal mash up of Jay-Z’s Black Album and The Beatles’ White Album), which I have, though I like more for what it’s trying to do than how it actually sounds.

Remembering that I was impressed a few years ago when Tim Burgess ignored any quest for credibility by identifying the Moulin Rouge Film Soundtrack as that year's best album, I decided to cut through the crap and go for the music. A Beatles mash-up DJ set was a project I could get on board with, at least it wasn’t like one of those albums who's sole selling point is that its been ‘remastered in Dolby 5.1’ like anyone can hear the difference (especially after its been compressed onto an iPod).

My initial instincts were right. The result is disappointing. You can’t fault the actual songs. But George and Giles Martin had every sound from the Beatles back catalogue to play with, to cut and paste and play with, but they end up with Beatles hits interspersed with swirly wirly bits. Perhaps they couldn’t bare to play with the originals, or maybe, just as likely, the Martins simply don’t have the capacity to put together a truly interesting mix in the style of a modern DJ set – which wouldn’t be surprising given their combined age of way over 100. In interviews, George Martin seems truly impressed with his sons ability on ProTools – like an old bloke who is impressed that you can put new paper into a printer (then refers to you as ‘technically minded’, and suggests you as the person who should be in charge of the company website). Perhaps they should have given it to Too Many DJs or Dangermouse after all.

And it's in bloody Dolby 5.1.


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