Shearwater – Fellow Travelers
Like live albums and B-side compilations, cover version LPs usually occupy a fringe position in an artist’s discography, and Fellow Travelers is no different. But as far as stopgaps go – bridging last year’s Animal Joy and next year’s in-the-works follow-up – Shearwater’s ten-song tribute to/collaboration with past touring partners is more attractive than most.
Few recordings rival the originals, but most offer something of interest: for example, a take on Xiu Xiu’s I Luv the Valley OH! doesn’t come close to the original’s intensity, but fashions a more conventional rock song out of the ingredients; similarly, St Vincent’s Cheerleader loses a lot of its poignancy in translation, but at least the gender switch invites new lyrical resonances. Less effective is a cover of Clinic’s Tomorrow, which smudges the original’s cold precision without subbing in any distinct character of its own, making Fellow Travelers a mixed bag in terms of quality as well as source material. [Chris Buckle]