If I Were a Carpenter

Various Artists
If I Were a Carpenter

Not exactly a tribute album, If I Were A Carpenter (1994) is more like a psycho-aesthetic exploration of Karen and Richard Carpenter’s musical legacy. Most of the artists contributing to this project seem to be fascinated with the sibling duo’s often-haunting brand of ‘70s-era pop. But their interpretations vary radically, veering from the coyly sentimental to the coolly ironic. The Cranberries’ cover of “(They Long To Be) Close To You” and Matthew Sweet’s version of “Let Me Be The One” stick close to the originals. At the other extreme, Sonic Youth picks up on the depressive side of the Carpenters’ work and turns “Superstar” into a suicidal dirge. Several bands — including Redd Kross and Shonen Knife — don’t bother with such analysis and simply romp through their tunes with reckless abandon. And then there are tracks (such as Cracker’s “Rainy Days And Mondays”) where the mood teeters between parody and homage. Taken as a whole, If I Were A Carpenter succeeds wonderfully in finding new (and often weird) resonance in one of the most familiar catalogues in pop history. You’ll never hear Karen and Richard the same way again.

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