Compilations can be tricky. The key to a great one is getting all of the artists involved on the same page. If there isn’t a certain unity, the result is like an episode of The Weakest Link.
Case in point: Guilt by Association, a compilation of indie artists covering “guilty pleasure” songs. The problem is commitment. In order to make a lame song great, there has to be commitment. The Concretes, for instance, perform Take That’s “I Want You Back” as if it were the ultimate breakup song. Similarly, Luna sexes-up Paula Abdul’s “Straight Up,” Goat turns Fall Out Boys’ emo-rific “Sugar We’re Going Down” into a bizarrely awesome anti-electro-folk piece, and Will Oldham might even make you reconsider Mariah Carey (or remember Diane Warren, who actually wrote “Can’t Take That Away from Me”).
But then there are tracks completely destroyed by the artists’ lack of commitment. Petra Haden’s version of Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believing” starts off showcasing the singer’s always beautiful voice, but then it falls apart when the chorus hits and she gives in to ridiculous studio trickery. For many of the artists here, it seems as if they had a hard time admitting that they actually liked their guilty pleasure, so instead took the safe way out with an ironic hipster-plays-unhip-song performance.
But there is more good than bad here. And if nothing else, Guilt by Association should at least get your next indie-rock-snob cocktail party started when your guests argue whether or not Mike Watt should feel embarrassed for liking Blue Oyster Cult.