Various Artists - Rough Trade Heroes 1976-2016 Vol.1

by Rob Taylor Rating:7 Release Date:2016-09-02

Rough Trade’s Heroes 1976-2016 Volume 1 presents forty songs written by musicians about their heroes. Or so the pretext goes. Ordinarily if you’re singing about your heroes you’d be expounding their virtues rather than rubbishing or lampooning them, as some of the musicians presented comically do, so perhaps it should be called Heroes, Villains and Reprobates. 

For instance, the lyrics to ‘Elvis is Dead” by Peter And The Test Tube Babies takes a shot at late period Elvis… Cause he’s so bleeding fat/he weighed nearly half a ton/he looked more like my pregnant mum / he had a gammy leg / he had a gammy head / he had a gammy kidney / he’s better off dead. Cockney punk at its finest.

Butthole Surfers sneer at Julio Inglesias… Julio Inglesias / jerked off into outer spacias / did 69 with the pope in the butthole / rammed that sucker head down the throat now. 

Miss Kitten And the Hacker’s droll satire on Frank Sinatra’s celebrity has the establishment licking ass andsucking dick, and the celebs fawning stupid smiles for photographs. The bawdy high times of Miss Kittin’s electro-clash provocations flatter the sentiment, and the track is fantastic.

The majority of the songs though are affectionate odes, some in direct language and some more aslant, such as Caberet Voltaire’s ‘James Brown’, The Fall’s ‘Damo Suzuki’ or Calexico’s ‘Not Even Stevie Nicks’, a song about a guy who loves Stevie Nicks but kills himself in despair, and not even the priestess could save him.

Some tracks are lovely in the sheer naivety expressed, like Wesley Wills’s off-key passion play about Jello Biafra .. You are a good rocker / you are a maniac / you can really sing your ass off to the max / you are a good man. It's a lo-fi rant sung with a conviction that any tone deaf music fan could appreciate. Neil Hamburger spends a minute gracing us with his impression of Snoop Doggy Dog complete with cheap boombox and a rousing call to a motherfucking something or other. Hilarious. Daniel Johnston’s homage to The Beatles is simple but very affecting. 

Then there’s some serious compositions written from the heart, like Mark Kozalek’s typically downbeat reflections about his friend, Ben Gibbard’s more youthful maturation, and his greater success, while Kozalek sucks it up in front of small audiences of mobile phone caressing art students. Pavement’s big hearted and authentic tribute to REM sounds almost like a band biography complete with Malkmus’s observation that ‘Time After Time’ was his least favourite song. Family Fodder’s classic song from the 1970s about Deborah Harry appeared on the Post-Punk Rough Trade compilation, and is a fitting opener.

The Drive By Truckers lend their southern fried boogie rock to ‘The Night G.G Allin Came To Town’. G.G Allin was  notorious live performer, and degenerate, who would create riots by self mutilating on stage, and attacking members of his audience…. He took a shit on stage / and started throwing it into the crowd / but he was gone before the cops came and shut him down

There are few attempts to emulate the sounds of the ‘heroes’ although Colourbox for instance do their best to replicate the minimalist repetitions of Phillip Glass  on ‘Phillip Glass’, and Le Tigre share a commonality to great female punk, and post punk acts like The Slits and Electrelane. Robyn Hitchcock takes pen to pastures on his eulogy about Nick Drake, expressing beautifully the dichotomy of Drake’s gentle and beautiful way with music, contrasted by his dark regressions and personal despair. 

There are many other excellent tracks here, like Sparks' ‘Lighten Up Morrissey’ where the lads bemoan the modern girl’s expectations of an intellect like Morrissey, and Cornershop’s ‘Brimful of Asha’, a track made famous by Fatboy Slim’s tinkering remix.

 

 

 

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