Review: Various Artists ‘Hearts & Minds & Crooked Beats’

‘People can change anything they want to, and that means everything in the world’ – Joe Strummer

So reads the inspirational quote in the accompanying promo notes for this The Clash tribute album that has been put together by Shared Medium to raise funds for the International Rescue Committee, an organization who assist those fleeing warzones and natural disasters.

Various Artists 'Hearts & Minds & Crooked Beats' Artwork
Various Artists ‘Hearts & Minds & Crooked Beats’ Artwork

There are ten tracks on the record with only two artists I’m familiar with, The Dandy Warhols and Labasheeda. I always had a soft spot for The Clash, musically they always seemed the more diverse and interesting band to come out of the late ‘70s Brit punk explosion. The legendary outfit put out six full-length albums, most of whom are represented here with the exception of the underwhelming Give ‘Em Enough Rope and Cut The Crap, the latter aptly named if you removed the first two words from the title.

The Dandy Warhols, the indie rock darlings whose power-pop hit Bohemian Like You was inescapable in 2000. As someone with that tune forever fixed in their mind, I found it fascinating that they’d choose to tackle Straight To Hell, a moodier track from the band’s catalogue. To their credit however, they do a decent job, helping to momentarily dispel the notion they were a hipster one hit wonder.

Montreal’s TEKE::TEKE give Bank Robber an interesting cinematic oriental psych twist with lyrics sung in Japanese(?) and English. Whereas the original seemed to drag on a bit, the eccentric experimentation here makes it a lot more engaging. I’m Not Down is given the stripped-down indie-pop treatment by New York’s Mirah with sweet twee(ish) vocals similar to Juliana Hatfield, giving it a distinctly lo-fi charm.

intriguing takes on what are well-known beloved songs…

The Rust And The Fury‘s cover of The Guns Of Brixton is a revelation, the first half layered in heavy reverb and spacey rock psychedelic noise that renders the whole thing virtually unrecognizable. Eventually things settle into something more ‘conventional’ and I was kind of left wishing they’d continued as they started. Nonetheless, a definite standout. Labasheeda‘s cover of Deny sees a slowing down of the original to give the whole affair a Patti Smith feel with strong impassioned vocals while Train In Vain (Stand By Me) in the hands of Seattle quartet Smokey Brights is perfectly fine but I felt some of the original’s heartfelt yearning got a little lost amongst the broad Americana Springsteen rock found here.

Described on his Bandcamp page as a ‘viscerally outspoken queer artist and performer’, Seán Barna‘s cover of Hitsville U.K. is fantastically flamboyant with nods to 70’s Bowie and Freddie Mercury at his most Noel Coward, while The Gotobeds retain the energy of I’m So Bored With The Usa and inject some garage-rock flourishes to make for an even more rousing piece.

With its goofy video and lyrics like ‘Now the King told the boogie man, you have to let that raga drop’ Rock The Casbah was always one of The Clash‘s sillier songs. Julia Massey of the band Warren Dunes brings a cool understated tropicália/exotica feel to proceedings that transforms it into something a little more dignified and less wacky. Finally, Aussies Big League conclude proceedings by bringing along some ace fuzzy Dinosaur Jr-esque grunge to Lost In The Supermarket, giving what was always a rather subdued piece a much needed kick in the proverbial.

Both the album’s participants and the music on offer isn’t your usual Shaman fare, but it is for a good cause with the majority of the covers very well-performed, with intriguing takes on what are well-known beloved songs. Impressive and worthy of investigation.

Label: Shared Medium