sun 22/04/2018

CD: Royal Philharmonic Orchestra - The Anarchy Arias | reviews, news & interviews

CD: Royal Philharmonic Orchestra - The Anarchy Arias

CD: Royal Philharmonic Orchestra - The Anarchy Arias

Dismally conceived operatic revision of punk rock

Not so much 'anarchy' as 'a terrible idea'

This Anarchy Arias consists of 13 operatic covers of British punk rock classics from the late Seventies and early Eighties, and it’s almost all skin-crawlingly horrific. Clearly, then, this review is going to be a predictable reaction, from a writer who rates the original versions moaning about how their ultimate mainstream co-option robs them of bite, fury and authenticity. Why, for instance, couldn’t I take a step back and listen from a broader perspective, observing the post-modern nuance, the skill involved and the “sense of fun”?

The fact is, smirkers completely numbed by this century’s quest to achieve meaninglessness via irony might enjoy it but, for anyone familiar with the songs and their wider cultural cache, it’s a bombastic torrent of ear-bilge. It’s feasible one of these songs could be used effectively as juxtaposition in a feature film, and that the more light-hearted tunes, such as Plastic Bertrand’s “Ca Plane Pour Moi” and The Member’s “Sound of the Suburbs” suffer far less, since they were only a giggle to begin with. As for the rest…

The Anarchy Arias involves Sex Pistol Glen Matlock and opens with “Pretty Vacant”, whose pompous massed choruses set the tone. Punk has been effectively covered many ways, many times – such as the brilliant Gallic easy-listening of Nouvelle Vague’s first album – but part of the grotesqueness of The Anarchy Arias is the way lead baritone Stephen Gadd renders the words. A factor in punk’s power was its visceral, mangled enunciation whereas Gadd’s crisp, jaunty rendition of lines such as “Forget it, brother, you can go it alone” (from “London Calling”) vaporise all potency and meaning. “No More Heroes”, indeed, turns The Stranglers' spray-gun ire into a simpering fart suitable for entertaining the Bullingdon Club over dinner.

“Teenage Kicks” is no longer teenage. It’s a middle-aged man having a gloating wank over someone he hated long ago. X-Ray Spex’ allegorical rage on “Oh Bondage Up Yours!” becomes a joyless TV evening sucking off Simon Cowell to entertain Britain’s Got Talent. And, as for what they’ve done to The Ruts’ peerless “Babylon’s Burning” – it’s quite simply the sound of dreams dying. And so on. In short, one of the worst albums ever made.

Overleaf: Anarchy Arias' terrifying version of The Stranglers "No More Heroes" perfomed on The One Show

Turns The Stranglers' spray-gun ire into a simpering fart suitable for entertaining the Bullingdon Club over dinner


Editor Rating: 
Average: 1 (1 vote)

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It's reviews like this that simply reinforce my lack of trust in anyone writing as a critic. Just because you don't like it doesn't mean it's bad, it just shows a different taste. I was there when the originals came out and I've listened to several versions since. I actually quite enjoyed the album. But then, I also drink red wine with fish and white wine not with fish...such a rebel, never conforming to the constraints placed upon us by the perceived wisdom of those who apparently know more.

Such misplaced effort! That said, it got me thinking about the converse possibility - punk covers of operas. Could be fun.

What a crap review. As someone who saw most of the punk bands at the time including the pistols last ever UK concert in Huddersfield I loved the punk songs of the time. Whilst this album is not perfect especially the pistols songs which don't carry the same venom without Rotten spitting the lyrics out with real hate and anger some of the other songs work brilliantly. The Buzzcocks " ever fallen in Love " and Joy Divisions " "Love will tear us apart" are superb with the emotion from operatic singing permeating every line of some bitter sweet love songs. For me I actually listened more to the lyrics than maybe I did at the time so for me they really added to the songs. Buy the album and make up your own mind don't let some critic tell you what to think.

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