Release Date: Feb 24, 2009
Record label: Astralwerks
Genre(s): Rock, Pop
Charity should, in an ideal world, be its own reward. For those of us who fall somewhere between Gandhi and Scrooge McDuck on the giving continuum, however, there are happy mediums — like the benefit CD. In the case of two new releases, Dark Was the Night and War Child Presents Heroes, the recipients are certainly worthwhile, and the artists included are a veritable gym-class roll call of contemporary alt favorites, including TV on the Radio, Lily Allen, Cat Power, Beck, Duffy, Spoon, My Morning Jacket, and Bon Iver.
Charity albums are often an excuse for pretty average music to be elevated to some kind of unearned cultural significance—the fact that it’s for a worthy cause overrules any musical under-achievement. A charity album of cover versions is a double whammy. The result of listening to a CD of covers is usually to return to the originals and rediscover their original appeal.
It’s a commonly held belief that you can’t criticise a charity record. The phrase "but it’s for a good cause" is often used as a defence against a half thought out album compiled with little care for the listener, leaving said punter out of pocket and with eleven more tracks to skip on their Ipod. 2009 has seen the bar well and truly set with the release of Dark Was The Night, the album curated by The National in aid of the Red Hot Organisation, featuring Feist, Ben Gibbard, Arcade Fire, David Byrne and Sufjan Stevens amongst many others.
On this 16-track charity album, megastars assign one of their own tracks to other stars for interpretation. It's shuffle fun if you like the new artists, but if you prefer the originals, certain covers will piss you off - like Hot Chip's bizarro Midas-gold-turned-into-crap redo of Joy Division's Transmission. The comp's low is Duffy's slurred take on Live And Let Die.