Sunday, July 30, 2017

Sonic Youth – "Superstar" (1994)

Come back to me again
And play your sad guitar

In 1994, a group of alternative bands -- Sonic Youth, Redd Kross, Shonen Knife, 4 Non Blondes, and the Cranberries, among others -- released a tribute album of Carpenters covers titled If I Were a Carpenter.

From Rolling Stone’s review of that album:

The Carpenters’ masterpiece – and the tribute's standout track – is “Superstar,” the haunting portrayal of a fan's unrequited love for a pop star.  “Your guitar/It sounds so sweet and clear/But you're not really here/It's just the radio,” Karen sings with a longing that makes this media-filtered romance sound that much more disaffected.  On their eerie rendition, Sonic Youth take the estrangement a step further with distorted feedback, synth effects and disembodied vocals that sound like a radio transmission from a distant alien world trying desperately to make contact.

Karen’s extraordinary contralto, which could communicate wrenching emotional nakedness with impeccable clarity and purity, is probably the main source of the Carpenters’ mystique.  And the conspicuous absence of her voice on the tribute album's songs eloquently expresses the tragedy of her loss.  But while her voice is missed, many cuts on the tribute owe so much to the originals that they vindicate Richard’s undervalued arranging skills.

Heres Sonic Youths cover of “Superstar,” which isn't sung by Kim Gordon but by her then-husband, Thurston Moore.  Giving the lead vocal to a male rather than female singer transforms it from a tale of a female fan's unrequited love for a male rock star to something that feels more like a song about a celebrity stalker:

Click below to buy the song from Amazon: 

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