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Gold Diggas, Head Nodders & Pholk Songs

The Beautiful South

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Album Review

The Beautiful South modestly inaugurate a new label association with Sony with this all-covers collection. Artists known for original material who make albums like this often do so to pay tribute to the beloved music of their youth; think of John Lennon's Rock 'n' Roll or David Bowie's Pin Ups. The Beautiful South, however, are known for their sarcastic lyrics wrapped in pretty melodies and arrangements, and a gaze at the track list inevitably poses the question whether the band's sense of irony has crept into its song choices. Is this really music that they love, or are they taking the piss? The latter seems to be the case at the top, a version of "You're the One That I Want" from the movie adaptation of Grease, transformed from the driving rocker wailed by John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John into a dramatic ballad sung with what sounds like mock sincerity. Much the same can be said of the loping, country-styled arrangement of ELO's "Livin' Thing" that follows. Clearly, whether they mean these performances affectionately or comically, the members of the Beautiful South are intent on redefining the songs by giving them arrangements their creators never would have dreamed of. It may be that, the fruitier the selection, the more they feel the need to transform it. Willie Nelson's "Valentine," Rufus Wainwright's "Rebel Prince," and especially the Stylistics' "I'm Stone in Love with You" are not messed about with very much. But Blue Öyster Cult's "Don't Fear the Reaper" gets a Latin arrangement, and the Ramones' "Blitzkrieg Bop" is rendered in much the way Buddy Holly & the Crickets might have done, if they'd been trying to transform it into "Peggy Sue." Whether the Beautiful South are serious or presenting this music largely tongue in cheek, however, they succeed in giving the listener new ways to hear familiar songs, some of which always seemed like guilty pleasures at best. Who knew that TV pop group S Club 7's "Don't Stop Moving" was a halfway decent song?

Biography

Formed: 1989 in Hull, England

Genre: Alternative

Years Active: '80s, '90s, '00s

Following the disbandment of the British indie pop group the Housemartins in 1989, vocalist Paul Heaton and drummer David Hemmingway formed the Beautiful South. Where their previous group relied on jazzy guitars and witty, wry lyrics, the Beautiful South boasted a more sophisticated, jazzy pop sound, layered with keyboards, R&B-inflected female backing vocals and, occasionally, light orchestrations. Often, the group's relaxed, catchy songs contradicted the sarcastic, cynical thrust of the lyrics....
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Gold Diggas, Head Nodders & Pholk Songs, The Beautiful South
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