ROBIN DANAR Altered States (Shanachie)
Robin Danar is a producer, affiliated with Los Angeles radio station KCRW, who describes this release as “a movie soundtrack album without a movie”. Given that Barry Adamson (of, variously, Magazine, Visage and Nick Cave’s Bad Seeds) has already done just that on his solo debut “Moss Side Story”, perhaps Danar’s thinking more of a movie soundtrack album in the post-“Pulp Fiction” sense of the term, wherein a bunch of pop culture references get smoothied up in an attempt to spike a film with a sufficient quantity of demographic-spanning touchstones (Urge Overkill covering Neil Diamond, yes?). Irrespective of its creator’s intentions, to me “Altered States” comes off more like a lumpy, low-budget garage band This Mortal Coil.
For too much of its duration, “Altered States” is suffocated by its own uningratiating eccentricity, scuppered by ideas that really don’t come off - Lisa Loeb covering The Damned, for example, or Jim Bianco, instructed to sing in the persona of a war veteran, doing the unthinkable in utterly flattening Talking Heads’ “Life During Wartime”.
Nevertheless, Danar throws so much wackiness at the wall that, almost inevitably, some of it actually sticks. My reason for purchasing this disc was the inclusion of a Paul Buchanan cover of the Pretenders’ “Message Of Love”. Danar refashions it as a so-so 4/4 stomp, but as soon as Paul starts to sing it’s lifted from mediocre to magical. It’s immediately outshone, however, by Quincy Coleman’s utterly divine performance of the Floyd’s “Fearless” in an Andrews Sisters stylee, and in not dissimilar territory Minibar’s barbershop quartet version of Morrissey’s “First Of The Gang To Die” easily outpaces any cruel Flying Pickets comparisons. Also quite delightful is Julian (son of Larry) Coryell’s Latin-inflected remake of “Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough”.
So, it’s a mixed grab-bag of the semi-famous and the almost good – other names you might half-recognise include Pete Yorn, Gary Jules, Sterling Campbell (Duran Duran, Soul Asylum), Eric Schermerhorn (Tin Machine, The The) and Marty Willson-Piper (The Church). It’s unlikely to interest anybody who doesn’t harbour an overriding obsession with one of its contributors, but at its best it’s more entertaining than it could so easily have been.