Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Radio 1: Established 1967 (Universal)

Apparently, Radio 1 is 40 years old. Not that you'd know or anything, they've been downplaying it with a modesty worthy of Sharon Strzelecki at New York Fashion Week. And in celebration of their on-air anniversary, an assorted platter of contemporary artists have each tackled one track from each year of the station’s life. Let’s face it, you know the drill - this juggernaut of a compilation has been fucking inescapable.

But is there any substance to it, or is it all a bit of a novelty? Truth be told, a significant portion of tracks could well have been recorded during a fag break. Robbie Williams attempts Lola the same soulless, regimented way an experienced nightclub toilet attendant would tackle a blockage; The Klaxons, having already proved they can resurrect and revitalize the most unlikely of songs, bring absolutely nothing to their cover of No Diggity; and Lily Allen should have been aware no amount of autotune could ever give her licence to attempt vocals defined by Chrissie Hynde.

The generous spread of buzz bands du jour sit rather uncomfortably along contributions from Girls Aloud and McFly, whose regular appearances on the playlist seemingly only serve to tick the pop box, in the same way faceless Euro-feta is spun in order to cover the dance remit. Oddly yet mercifully, the latter genre is barely acknowledged on Established 1967, aside from Calvin Harris and his entirely pointless undertaking of an obscure Jamiroquai track, or Mika's gore-heavy butchering of Can't Stand Losing You.

But what of the good points? Thankfully, they’re not only existent, but in fact, rather plentiful. Artists ripped from their comfort zones rise to the challenge with added flair, particular props being awarded to Just Jack and Kasabian. In contrast, some tracks seem as though they were made for that artist - Mutya Buena was seemingly born to perform Fast Car, arguably approaching Tracy Chapman’s initial enchantment.

Elsewhere, The Pigeon Detectives provide a fresh yet faithful adaptation of Huey Lewis & The News’ The Power Of Love, The Gossip skilfully turn Careless Whisper into a spiky tale of forlorn fury, while Hard-Fi overwrite Toxic as a blokey, almost predatory anthem of drunken lust.

All in all, Established 1967 is a triumph, with the highs more than capable of wallpapering over the lows. And yet, the irony of 2005’s track being Ronan Keating and Yusuf Islam’s version of Father & Son (as covered by The Enemy) is inescapable. Aside from it being a cover of a cover of a cover, it’s safe to say the 2005 rendition barely clocked up five minutes of airplay on Radio 1.

Fair do’s, it was a fucking horrific piece of work. But its appearance here merely underlines the playlist-dictated shambles Radio 1 has become. Stripping itself further and further of personality, the iconic status of the station is fast dissolving. In that sense, Established 1967 acts as a nice epitaph, showcasing the station’s greatest moments. But with Radio 1 dying slowly under the weight of Moyles, the ineptitude of ‘star’ DJs a la Fearne Cotton, and the clueless snobbery of its playlist, it’s highly unlikely a similar album will be commemorating the next 40 years.

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