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Various Artists Play Some Pool, Skip Some School, Act Real Cool – A Global Pop Tribute to Bruce SpringsteenWhere Its At Is Where You Are
Article written by
Alex S - Aug 16, 2009
Play Some Pool - Tribute to Springsteen
Released this week, ‘Play Some Pool...’ is a deserving tribute from Indiepop’s finest to rock and roll’s greatest working class hero. With 38 songs stretching more than two and half hours there is something for everyone in this brave and heartfelt celebration of the great man’s genius. Take MJ Hibbett’s extraordinary version of ‘Glory Days’. A song Bruce originally wrote with a hint of self parody, but now the finale of his live set sung with an affectionate and ironic twinkle. Hibbett revels in the quintessential Americana of the lyrics – roadside bar, baseball player – as he rolls them around his flat northern tongue to a blistering West Country hoedown. Or the way Jeff Mellin takes a song already laden with pain (‘Brilliant Disguise’) and uses slide guitar and a Jesus and Mary Chain vocal to reach new heights of pathos. Then there’s Travis Elborough’s ‘My Hometown’, read straight as a poem rather than sung. When so much of Bruce’s lyrics are poetic vignettes of small town life, making ends meet, the disenfranchised and the desperate, this is original and entirely appropriate. There are more straightforward but equally wonderful interpretations by Airport Girl (‘The River’), Pete Weiss (‘Candy’s Room’), Butcher Boy (‘Streets of Philadelphia’) and the sweetest version of ‘One Step Up’ by Jenniferever that I defy anyone not to be shed a tear.
Bruce distracters falsely accuse him of filling his songs with girls, cars, biceps and power chords. In fact Bruce returns time and again to questions about how do you stay true to your values when compromise is all around, and how do you serve the people who you care about when so much of our lives are flawed. I’ve always felt Bruce asks these questions from a uniquely male perspective, which is why another fascinating dimension to this collection is the way female vocals can re-shape a song. When Bruce sings in desperation and without options “Well I’m tired of coming out on the losing end, so last night I met this guy and I’m gonna do a little favour for him” you know he’s about to go stealing. When Elizabeth Morris of Allo Darlin’ sings the same line it takes on a whole different meaning, decidedly more sordid and sad. Or in ‘If I Should Fall Behind’, Bruce’s dignity in the original is made brittle and fragile by Amelia’s melancholic vocal.
Another question answered by this compilation is how to deal with songs that are already so iconic they have a life of their own. The way it’s done here is to re-write the rulebook. Lucinda Black Bear’s ‘Born to Run’ is a vaudevillian, burlesque re-interpretation so utterly in contrast to the original it not only re-writes the rulebook, it throws it out the window. But only after she’s torn it up first. The same can be said of Glam Chops ‘Born in the USA’; a hilarious cross between Gary Glitter and John Cooper Clarke. Blithering nonsense, superbly delivered.
With so many highlights I can offer the merest glimpse into this collection of outstanding talent. But as Bruce turns sixty this year, he could wish for no finer birthday present.