Review: Stars, Do You Trust Your Friends?
Now this is an interesting idea. Stars gave all the tunes on their album “Set Yourself On Fire” to friends and asked them to make remixes or cover versions. They then collected the results and released them as “Do You Trust Your Friends?” Cool idea.
Did it work? Well, yes and no. Besides providing a cataloging challenge (list it under Stars or various artists?) DYTYF? presents a listening challenge. Do you listen to these tracks as variations of Stars’ songs or do you try to listen to them with fresh ears as unique songs in their own right? Stars seems to encourage the former; they did, after all, release this as a Stars rather than a various artists album. They also sequenced the songs in the same order as on “Set Yourself on Fire” and provided album art that is very similar to the earlier album. The problem is, though, when you treat the songs as different versions of the Stars songs, DYTYF? can be something of a disappointment. With the original version as a reference point for comparison purposes most of these remixes and different versions come up short. Part of the problem is that “Set Yourself on Fire” is a very distinctive album. Many of the original tracks are special in that they don’t sound like anything else by anybody else. The remixes or newly recorded versions often have the effect of making the originals sound more like other types of music which seems, in many cases, to lessen the tune’s original impact. The other part of the problem is that “Set Yourself on Fire” also a very good album. When songs are as good as many of these were in their original form, the new version comes across as a weak variant. For each listener, this is likely to be especially true for songs from the original album that came to be favorites.
However, when you listen to DYTYF? without reference to “Set Yourself on Fire” a different picture emerges. Quite a few of the new versions work very well on their own and become more appealing the more you forget about “Set Yourself on Fire” and just listen to the song on its own merits as it appears on DYTYF? Of course, this is easier said than done. I found I was only able to get past comparing the DYTYF? and SYOF versions after repeated listens. But the payoff is there if you put in the effort. The Dears turn in a very intriguing two part version of “What I’m Trying to Say”; the Stills do a surprising Ennio Morricone version of “Soft Revolution” that features electric guitar pyrotechnics from Patrick Krief of The Dears; Metric turns in a remix of “He Lied About Death” that sounds nothing like either a Stars or a Metric tune; Jason Collett contributes a rock party cover of “Reunion”. All of these tracks work very well on their own and work much better when you don’t compare them with the originals. Not everything works this well. The Junior Boys do to “Sleep Tonight” what computer boffins always do – lay the original vocals on an electronica rhythm track of their own devising. In this case it just makes the song sound like a million others. Apostle of Hustle’s treatment of “One More Night” also did nothing for me as their replacement of the original vocals with their own took away just about everything that made the original so interesting without giving you anything of equal value in return.
For me, this collection works better as a various artists album than as a Stars album which led me to think about how far you might go in trusting your friends. Giving them your album and asking them to make of it what they will shows a great deal of trust. Would it have shown even more if you didn’t insist this is a Stars album when you decided to release the results?
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