Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Split Single: "Stomach Worm" - It Hugs Back and "Wolfie" - Ray Rumours

Spilt Single: "Stomach Worm" / "Wolfie"
Too Pure Singles Club
Rating: ******* (7/10)

Lately, I've been trying to expand my new-music horizons beyond New York City, and it was this endeavour that brought me to the UK's Too Pure Singles Club. Though it sounds like a screwed-up dating service, it is in fact the last surviving fragment of the Too Pure record label, a very small branch that sends its members new music by limited edition 7" vinyl every month and that seems to have a good track record of highlighting promising UK up-and-comers.

This month, the club releases a split single between It Hugs Back and Ray Rumours, each covering other Too Pure bands.

It Hugs Back decided to cover the catchy tune "Stomach Worm" by Stereolab. Stereolab is known for their quirky, pattern-driven pop and IHB's version of "Stomach Worm" matches the original in the rolling, pulsing beat. As a general rule, the best cover versions involve reinvention of a song, so I was initially disappointed that IHB retained so much of the original. That said, if you're going to do a copy-job, Stereolab is not easy music to recreate and this single does an admirable job of capturing the original spirit and complexity of the song.

It Hugs Back (picture from myspace.com)
It Hugs Back

More importantly, there are ways in which IHB makes this song their own. Of course, their slightly-raw indie male vocals stand in contrast to the odd-but-polished female vocals of the original. More importantly, thanks to their guitars, their version is fuzzier, noisier and rougher around the edges. Sure, we've all heard more exciting covers, but by slightly circumventing the bubbly sheen of the Stereolab version, IHB have created a single that's fresh and fun.

Ray Rumours, the indie folk songwriter also know as Ros Murray, selected the song "Wolfie" by Scout Niblett as her contribution to the split. It's not a very risky choice - another female singer-songwriter armed with guitar. (How cool would it have been if she had done the Stereolab cover instead?!) But Murray goes further than IHB at reworking her chosen song - while Scout Niblett's version is aggressive and openly bitter, Murray's interpretation is gentle and more mournful than anything.

Ray Rumours (picture from myspace.com)
Ray Rumours

It's not my favorite pick for a song because it hinges more on its lyrics than its melody, which, while subtly pretty at first, is limited and rather dull by its tenth or so repetition at the end of the song. Murray's version does well given the restrictions of the song, though. Replacing Niblett's sparse electric guitar with a tightly finger-picked acoustic, she delivers the song with a softness, giving the words a sense of introspection that you'll find nowhere in the original. Overall, her unique voice and particular guitar technique makes this "Wolfie" distinctly a Ray Rumours song.

As a split, it's an all-around solid release, and well worth a couple bucks to download (I am under the impression that it will be available on iTunes soon) or even to get on the vinyl if you're into that. For more information, check the Too Pure Singles Club MySpace page.

It Hugs Back - MySpace
Ray Rumours - MySpace

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