Well, it is the season for the cover song, a time when everyone from the established mainstream music-maker to the reality show, also-ran celebrity…and I use the word celebrity quite wrongly… is crooning out a Christmas tune in an effort to pay for a new wing on their Cheshire manor or perhaps pay off their cocaine habit. But when you come across an album of covers by Black Needle Noise, you know that this is going to be something radically different from the usual sonic fare.
Thankfully, despite the timing, this isn’t a Christmas collection, it is a series of collaborations with artists from all over the musical spectrum a reimagining of well-known songs, giving them not only a new lease of life but lives that their originators probably could only have envisaged in a fevered cheese-dream. As such it ranges from industrial disco versions of R.E.M.’s Losing My Religion to The Black Crowes’ She Talks To Angels ironically sounding like it is a serenade emanating from the seventh circle of hell.
If you get that the title is a reference to Black Needle Noise captain John Fryer being an integral part of This Mortal Coil longer ago than many of us care to remember…tempus does indeed fugit, then you will know what to expect. And rather than just a calculated move to put out something familiar to the music buying public, not that there is too much that is familiar after he has had his wicked way with these tune, this album represents songs and projects, film music and intriguing ideas which have gathered around him since 2011. When Cleopatra Records suggested collecting them all in one place it seemed the logical next step.
A few of the songs stay close to their original sonic realm, Walking In My Shoes is not a million miles away from Depeche Mode’s original vision, others, however, do not, Wonderful World’s tormented vocals and cavernous sounds light years beyond the sweet blues-balladry of the Satchmo classic. But that is the art of such things. Either you stay faithful and merely act as a tribute to someone else’s work or you really blow the form wide open and in doing so offering something both wonderfully familiar and totally alien in one sonic soupçon.
Christmas is the perfect time for reconnecting with iconic songs, childhood favourites and sentimental singalongs but when you want to rise above such trivial pursuits there is always John Fryer and Black Needle Noise.