30 Aug 2016

Rough Trade Shops present: Heroes Vol. 1 (1976 - 2016) / Album Review

Compilation albums have never sat well with me. From early memories of “Now” and “Pop Party” CDs at fifth birthday parties, to my parents' collection of dodgy latin Morrissey and Arctic Monkeys covers, any respect I ever had for them has been pretty much destroyed. After recently picking up a reggae one at a record shop that didn’t include any Bob Marley or Jimmy Cliff but did feature Rihanna’s “Work”, I was a little sick in my mouth, and I thought it best I stick to singular artist shit. However, post-punk label Rough Trade’s “Heroes Vol. 1 (1976 - 2016)”, has pleasantly surprised me, as the most interesting and bizarre collection of songs I’ve stumbled upon for a while.

The album, which coincides with celebrations marking Rough Trade’s 40th anniversary, follows the theme of songs written about other musicians (including icons such as Bowie and Debbie Harry) from throughout the label’s lifetime. But there's a deeper, darker essence to the record than just that. As Ed Zed from Rough Trade New York puts it, “Each of the songs is a window to a room in the minds of artists, a room reserved for contemplating the art of others, be they influences, obsessions, contemporaries or fantasies, lovers, haters, emetics, mad men, villains or heroes”. It’s an exploration of the range of cultures and backgrounds that many musicians have have been exposed to, manipulating their idols' songs to fit their own agenda. Take Fat White Family’s ode to The Fall frontman Mark E. Smith: a creepily spine chilling, psychedelic blur that aims to summon some sick and twisted phantom from the post punk era. Do they hate that Mark E. Smith or do they miss him and what he stood for? Do they want to revive what he was all about in an age of Instagram, twerking and Calvin Klein bralettes? It's interesting to see contemporary/up and coming musicians experimenting with the iconic status no longer available to them as smaller artists in the greed of the internet era.

The whole album is like a really funky acid trip, bouncing about in a kaleidoscope of different genres, each song as equally bizarre and freaky as the next. It splits open with the punky undertones of Family Fodder and The Maggots, paying their homages to iconic females such as Debbie Harry and Tammy Wynette. The latter's “(Let’s Get, Let's Get) Tammy Wynette” is almost like a black comedy, as a mob murdering of the 60s country star is ordered; “Kick her teeth out, punch her face in / Let’s get Tammy Wynette”, may sound gruesome and extreme, but it’s a bite back at the sexism and the submissive female ideal that reigned in songs such as “Stand By Your Man”.

The album then melts into shades of electro and funk, with Sexual Harrasment’s “We Want Prince” and Cabaret Voltaire’s “James Brown” capturing the coolness and sex appeal of the iconic black musicians who inspired the genres they went on to dominate. A more mellow, folky vibe floats through towards the end of the album. Allo, Darlin’s “Wu Tang Clan” has the edge and aggression of Ghostface Killah, but more recites the inner turmoils of those white middle class loners who listen to them.
Not only is this compilation groovy as fuck, but it offers an exciting insight away from the mainstream into how the influence of past icons can be woven into something new by the artists of today. Whether you're a fan of the mainstream artists like Radiohead, or the equally iconic DIY acts like Riot Grrrls Le Tigre"Heroes..." is an interesting and colourful depiction of the subcultures, movements and genres Rough Trade has born witness to over the last forty years, and their everlasting drive to conserve and fuel the alternative.

"Rough Trade Shops present: HEROES VOL. 1" is out now. Read the full track list below.

Disc 1
1. FAMILY FODDER Debbie Harry
2. THE MAGGOTS (Let's Get, Let's Get) Tammy Wynette
7. THE FALL I Am Damo Suzuki
8. PSYCHIC TV Godstar (Brian Jones)
9. COLOURBOX Phillip Glass
10. BUTTHOLE SURFERS Julio Iglesias
11. HALF MAN HALF BISCUIT Prag Vec at The Melkweg
12. THEY MIGHT BE GIANTS We're The Replacements
13. RADIOHEAD Anyone Can Play Guitar (Jim Morrison)
14. NOISE ADDICT I Wish I Was Him (Evan Dando)
15. WESLEY WILLIS Jello Biafra
16. THE BRIAN JONESTOWN MASSACRE (David Bowie I Love You) Since I Was Six
17. CORNERSHOP Brimful of Asha (Asha Bhosle)
18. NEIL HAMBURGER Snoop Doggy Dogg
19. LE TIGRE Hot Topic (The Slits, Joan Jett and more)
20. THE DRIVE-BY TRUCKERS The Night G.G. Allin Came To Town
21. STEREO TOTAL Ringo, I Love You
22. ROBYN HITCHCOCK I Saw Nick Drake

Disc 2
1. SONGS OHIA Steve Albini’s Blues
2. CALEXICO Not Even Stevie Nicks…
4. PAVEMENT Unseen Power of The Picket Fence (R.E.M.)
5. BRAKES Heard About Your Band
6. THE MOUNTAIN GOATS Song for Dennis Brown
7. JEFFREY AND JACK LEWIS Williamsburg Will Oldham Horror
8. MATMOS Solo Buttons for Joe Meek
10. JOAN AS POLICE WOMAN We Don't Own It (Elliott Smith)
11. HELEN LOVE Debbie Loves Joey (Debbie Harry and Joey Ramone)
12. SPARKS Lighten Up, Morrissey
13. MOGWAI I’m Jim Morrison, I'm Dead
14. THE BOY LEAST LIKELY TO George and Andrew (Wham!)
15. ALLO, DARLIN’ Wu Tang Clan
16. SUN KIL MOON Ben’s My Friend (Ben Gibbard)
17. FAT WHITE FAMILY I Am Mark E. Smith

Words: Ella Skinner