29
May
10

‘A Song for Eurotrash’ (1998)

Tracklisting:

1. ‘Saint Tropez‘ by Brigitte Bardot
2. ‘Save Your Kisses for Me‘ by Kenickie
3. ‘Poupee de Cire, Poupee de Son’ by Dubstar featuring Sacha Distel
4. ‘Ding a Dong‘ by Edwyn Collins
5. ‘La La La‘ by Saint Etienne
6. ‘Volare‘ by Dean Martin
7. ‘All Kinds of Everything‘ by Terry Hall and Sinead O’Connor
8. ‘What’s Another Year‘ by Shane MacGowan and The Popes
9. ‘Ooh Yeah‘ by Eva Hengere
10. ‘A Ba Ni Be’ by Fox Force 5
11. ‘Congratulations’ by Annie Christian
12. ‘Waterloo‘ by Bananarama
13. ‘Variations on Te Deum‘ by 808 State
14. ‘A Song for Eurotrash’ by Antoine De Caunes and Kate Robbins

‘A Song for Eurotrash’, which is a special edition of the cult television programme, was producer Nick Bradshaw’s concept to bring in a number of credible and respected recording artists, who would re-work several under-appreciated Eurovision entries from over the years.

14 artists were carefully selected to ensure that the compilation played up to its strengths, like Eurovision, in order to construct a simple and well-crafted pop song.

Kenickie’s version of the Brotherhood of Man’s ‘Save Your Kisses For Me‘ is an example of how Eurovision and British guitar music can perfectly blend together.

Although it is a track which would happily sit as a b-side (it was a b-side, in fact, for their excellent 1998 single ‘Stay in the Sun‘), it is a neatly produced gem that has a strong awareness of its pop sensibilities.

They could have gone for the lazy and easy option of making it sound kitsch, but they have instead gone for a cool and understated sound.

The song’s low-tempo also helps to bring a new sarcastic twist to the lyrics, which makes the idea of love seem incredibly cynical.

If there’s one problem with the song, though, is that they do seem a bit too eager to present the song in such a manner to avoid making a mockery of the song and contest.

It also could have been recorded this way to prevent their credibility from being undermined.

Therefore, Kenickie do sound a bit uncomfortable, at times, in tackling the track and it ends up feeling a bit subdued at times.

It’s a shame as they could have done a lot more with it, while keeping their integrity in check.

The superb key change at the end, however, shows a sparkle of creativity that helps to make the song their own and the song should have had more moments like that.

One artist, though, that seems completely at ease with the album’s concept is Edwyn Collins with his version of ‘Ding A Dong‘, which was originally recorded by the 1975 Eurovision winners Teach In.

It is the highlight of the album and one that is so good, it could have been released as a single in its own right.

It is a wonderfully constructed effort that is a bit cheeky and tongue-in-cheek, but treats the original with the utmost respect.

What Collins does right, and what isn’t seen often enough throughout the album, is that he treats the song as one of his own. It isn’t seen as a novelty, or as a chance to experiment, but it is one that doesn’t take itself seriously and lets its musicianship shine through.

It’s an achievement in itself that it’s the closest that Eurovision has gone to being cool.

However, efforts by other acts, from the 1990s indie stable, don’t quite work as well.

Dubstar’s collaboration with Sacha Distel, for example, is a clumsy Euro-dance effort that is a blatant attempt to merely use to format to break out of their mould, rather than creating something that is more in-line with Bradshaw’s aim.

Their version of France Gall’s ‘Poupée de Cire, Poupée de Son’ has garish sirens and beats, which fails to complement Sarah Blackwood and Distel’s smooth vocals.

Whilst it’s a brave effort to depart from their fairly ordinary dream-pop sound to attempt to record something more substantial, it does feel a bit tacky in the end.

Additionally, Terry Hall and Sinead O’Connor’s over-earnest folk version of Dana’s ‘All Kinds of Everything‘ sounds equally clumsy and it ends up feeling like that it should be on a children’s nursery rhyme compilation.

Although every song on the album is not as successful as it could have been, the variety and eclecticism seen on the album is one to be applauded.

The album could have gone down the money-spinning route of just inviting the in-artists of 1998 but, to the producers’ credit, it instead went for diversity and quality.

Seeing that Eurovision prides itself on eclecticism, it was the right route to go down. It ensures that listening to an album like this – where artists from 808 State and Dean Martin to Shane MacGowan and The Popes all share the same motive – is a refreshing experience.

Dean Martin’s 1958 swing version of Domenico Modugno’s Italian entry ‘Volare‘, in particular, has a quality that is timeless, while MacGowan’s version of Johnny Logan’s winning entry ‘What’s Another Year‘ has a raw Irish folk sound that has an endless charm.

If you played either of them to anyone who hadn’t heard the originals before, I can guarantee that they would never think that they were Eurovision entries.

In fact, the offerings from the likes of Martin and Collins are so outstanding, it actually makes some of the other offerings feel out-of-place due to their similarity to the originals.

While there is no doubting that the likes of ‘Ooh Yeah’ by Eva Henger and ‘A Ba Ni Be’ by Fox Force 5 (covering the winning entry by Israel in 1978) are celebrating the absurdity of Eurovision, it ends up sounding a little too tongue-in-cheek for it to work.

After hearing efforts from the likes of Kenickie, it ends up feeling like a smack in the face.

The only act from the last few tracks to come out with any credibility at all is the original line-up of Bananarama, with their cover of Abba’s ‘Waterloo‘. At first, it sounds so good that it could come close to matching the 1974 classic, but it soon tires itself out and fades into repetitiveness.

The main problem with this version of ‘Waterloo’, is that its synth arrangement lacks the triumphant feeling of Abba’s version.

It ends up feeling a bit lazy and slapdash, with ambition really lacking as its low-budget sound soon becomes clear.

The biggest achievement, however, is Saint Etienne’s version of Massiel’s ‘La La La‘.

In a subtle version, that is reminiscent of their album ‘Good Humor’, it does an excellent job in ensuring that this minimalistic version stands up to their best recordings.

This is easily the most difficult song to cover out of the 14, as even the slightest of increases in its tempo would have made it far too camp.

The whole affair ends up having a tone that’s a little too understated, despite Sarah Cracknell’s vocals sounding typically teasing.

However, to the group’s defence, it is hard to do a lot with a song that has a chorus that just consists of the phrase “La La La” without it sounding cheesy.

Despite this, the trio’s fine musicianship and competence ensures that the track treads the fine line of being catchy without being overblown very carefully.

It may fail to match the heights of their previous covers – which include ‘Only Love Can Break Your Heart‘ and ‘Who Do You Think You Are?‘ – but the group deserve acclaim in modernising a fairly simplistic track with appreciation and sensitivity.

Overall, ‘A Song for Eurotrash’ has a fantastic concept and the decision to combine Britpop with Eurovision is a master-stroke.

It pays off, too, as there’s a healthy dose of eclecticism and it features some of the catchiest indie music from the late 1990s.

It has its fair share of faults and filler – such as 808 State’s forgettable and rather mediocre version of the Eurovision theme – but if you still need convincing that Eurovision is not a big joke, then look no further than ‘A Song for Eurotrash’.

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