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Shivaree - Tainted Love: Mating Calls and Fight Songs

Released by Zoë/Rounder, 07/24/07

On Tainted Love Shivaree puts aside their impressive songwriting in favor of material from an eclectic bunch of writers including Michael Jackson, R. Kelly, Motley Crüe’s Nikki Sixx, early country music star Spade Cooley, Gray Glitter and blues shouter Lead Belly. They also step away from the gloomy, ambient soundscapes that made their previous albums so moody.

They haven’t totally abandoned their ethereal slo-core style, but there are times when they actually sound like a rock’n’roll band, especially on their treatment of Chuck Berry’s "I Wanna Be Your Driver". They play it as if they were Joy Division with grinding guitar chords and a propulsive new wavey beat. Duke McVinne drops a guitar solo without a hint of Berry’s patented style, no mean feat.

Gary Glitter’s football rocker “Hello! Hello! I’m Back Again” gets slowed down to a crawl, and sounds more desponded than celebratory; a homecoming song for someone who finds another person in bed with their lover. Danny McGough’s keyboards drop a bunch of dark electronic textures into Michael Jackson’s “Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough” for a nice anti-funk approach.

Ambrosia Parsley’s fragile vocal style always hints at despair and disappointment, making her work on most of these rock, funk and country songs sound slightly out of place. It works best on tragic songs like David Allen Coe’s “Would You Lay With Me (in a Field of Stone)”, where the ominous keyboard and Parsley’s wounded vocals add another layer of drama to a song that’s already over the top, and on “Goodnight Irene” one of the most wrenching ballads of lost love ever written. Seeing Shivaree apply its unsettling approach to other people’s songs makes for an interesting side trip, but this isn’t an essential addition to their catalogue.

Rating 2.5 out of 5 stars