I’ll Be Your Mirror: A Tribute To The Velvet Underground & Nico
It’s been a wee while since I’ve found a great Various Artists tribute album – one that doesn’t feel try-hard, one that doesn’t run out of steam.
So I was pleasantly surprise by this, feeling – on paper – it might do both of those things, or certainly either.
But no. The mood is sustained. The quality is high. And this won’t replace the need in your life to listen to the original – but it just might send you back there, with fresh ears, in the way that a good tribute should. It arrives, as with Todd Haynes’ extraordinary documentary as part of a small wave of VU appreciation/reappraisal. With both, I’ve felt that I didn’t need to know any more about this group – but wrong! Down the rabbit hole I go once again. And so gladly.
This version of The Velvet Underground & Nico kicks off with Michael Stipe caressing Sunday Morning. It’s calming, gentle and fun. It’s warm but baked in sadness, that’s Stipe of course. But it’s a lovely start.
From there the highlights tumble.
Sharon Van Etten taking Femme Fatale towards the Lana del Rey inevitability, but perhaps better placed to hold it back from being a showcase, or pantomime.
Andrew Bird is primed to give some John Cale-esque clout to the version of Venus in Furs, Kurt Vile absolutely nails Run Run Run, all perfect laconic drawl and gun-slinger guitar.
St. Vincent takes All Tomorrow’s Parties towards where Laurie Anderson might have imagined it – so it feels like a ‘double tribute’ almost.
Thurston Moore has probably been auditioning to do some version of Heroin his whole life, here he’s paired with Bobby Gillespie – who wrings the breathy drama from the lyric’s story.
Courtney Barnett straight-takes I’ll Be Your Mirror, but the power and conviction of her delivery, her stance, is such that you could almost imagine this as her song now. But of course her version is actually in service to the original. And that’s what you want from a tribute-album and its various covers – songs that nod and smile up at the original, but songs that bring flavour from the cover-artist.
We get that in spades here. And as with the Gillespie/Moore pairing for Heroin, we get Iggy Pop teamed with Matt Sweeney to try to celebrate the electric madness of European Son. They sure do it justice.
Surprised how much I dig this album and how often I’ve played it. Very cool.