As we discussed in the previous PGTW installment, Disc One of Ruby Trax was a rather inauspicious first step for such an ambitious project. They had their pick of the UK’s top acts, and they thought that letting the Fatima Mansions creep their way, both literally and figuratively, through Bryan Adams’ “Everything I Do (I Do It for You)” was not only a good idea, but worthy of the opening disc? Huh.
And in the interest of full disclosure, that would not be the last lapse in judgment they would have. In fact, Disc Two of Ruby Trax, while far more consistent than Disc One, opens with Carter the Unstoppable Sex Machine covering… “Another Brick in the Wall.” (Brought to you by Bad Idea Jeans.) On the surface, you might think that the boys behind “Sheriff Fatman” might be able to inject a little fun into Pink Floyd’s dark disco juggernaut, but no. Instead, they slow it down to a snail’s pace, and for no reason whatsoever, they shout “Motherfucker!” after the second chorus. Next.
The next two songs have been the subject of much discussion and debate, even between the bands themselves. Blur tackles “Maggie May” minus bassist Alex James (he was vehemently opposed to covering Rod the Mod and refused to play on the song), and how much you like this cover depends greatly on your reverence for the original. Personally, I like “Maggie May” but heard it more than enough growing up, so I’ll take Blur’s cover gladly, though it sounds like they recorded it in about 20 minutes. Then comes Tears for Fears’ note-for-note cover of David Bowie’s “Ashes to Ashes,” and once again I will admit my bias. One of my favorite Bowie songs being covered by one of my favorite singers, ever. I couldn’t care less that it’s identical to the original, since it’s a pretty hard song to “make your own,” as it were. Apparently Roland Orzabal had tried doing something left-field with it, but it wasn’t working, so they went the Gus Van Zant “Psycho” route instead. Orzabal acknowledged that the band more or less took the easy way out with the Bowie cover when compiling B-sides for the band’s Saturnine Martial & Lunatic album, but then said, “Still, it’s better than Blur’s version of ‘Maggie May.’ (Or is it?)” Yes, Roland, it’s better. But I like your version too, Damon. I’m such a kiss-ass.
The House of Love shoegaze the bejeezus out of “Rock Your Baby,” and the Frank and Walters deliver a pretty pointless version of “I’m a Believer.” And then there’s Suede’s cover of “Brass in Pocket,” which has more pent-up sexual tension than anything Chrissie Hynde has ever recorded. (Funny how other artists tap the emotional core of Hynde’s songs better than she does. Look at Everything but the Girl’s version of “Kid” for another example.) On the other end of the spectrum, Tori Amos strips every ounce of sexuality out of “Ring My Bell,” while Marc Almond clearly thought that Madonna’s version of “Like a Prayer” wasn’t fabulous enough. As for EMF’s version of “Shaddup You Face,” well, I’m not sure what to say. On one hand, it’s rather fitting that a band with such a short shelf life would cover a novelty song. On the other hand, that’s a pretty cool beat they put to it, even if it ends with wave after wave of profanity.
Disc Two’s final two songs are arguably this disc’s finest. Ned’s Atomic Dustbin take Charlene’s “I’ve Never Been to Me” and rip it up in the best way imaginable, trading their basses and drums for keyboards and a drum machine. Boy George closes the affair with a sobering take on fellow Buddhist George Harrison’s “My Sweet Lord.” Rounding out the set are Kingmaker covering “Lady Madonna” and, in one of the set’s greatest missed opportunities, the Farm covering “Don’t You Want Me.” If this had a drum track half as fun as the one they assembled for “Groovy Train,” this could have been something special. Well, they would have needed to re-cut singer Peter Hooton’s pancake-flat vocals as well.
Coming up in two weeks: Disc Three, where Jesus Jones does the unthinkable, we get a Kraftwerk two-fer, and Vic Reeves pisses all over Ultravox.
1. Carter USM – Another Brick in the Wall
2. Blur – Maggie May
3. Tears for Fears – Ashes to Ashes
4. House of Love – Rock Your Baby
5. The Frank & Walters – I’m a Believer
6. EMF – Shaddup You Face
7. Suede – Brass in Pocket
8. Tori Amos – Ring My Bell
9. Kingmaker – Lady Madonna
10. Marc Almond – Like a Prayer
11. The Farm – Don’t You Want Me?
12. Ned’s Atomic Dustbin – I’ve Never Been to Me
13. Boy George – My Sweet Lord