Various Artists

ReNewell: The Martin Newell Tribute CD

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AllMusic Review by

The concept of the tribute album became so ingrained by 2000 that there were tribute CDs to the very cult rock acts that used to be one of those little-known bands that many people would only find as contributors to tribute CDs. Not many people heard of Martin Newell, who has been making quality, quirky British pop/rock since the early 1980s, as a solo artist and with bands such as Cleaners From Venus. And even those people who have, say, devoted an entire chapter to Martin Newell in a book about cult rock artists are unlikely to be familiar with each and every song of his covered on this disc. And even the rabid indie rock collector is unlikely to have heard of any of these 21 contributing artists, except for R. Stevie Moore and Stuart Moxham. All of these factors no doubt whittle down the potential audience of this project, but if you are one of the chosen few hip to the Newell discography, this is a pretty credible collection of interpretations. It's uneven, certainly, but does serve almost as well as a Newell compilation as evidence of the songwriter's gift for clever melodic hooks and witty, idiosyncratically British lyrics. Fortunately, most of the artists stick to a well-arranged, but not slick, pop/rock sensibility similar to Newell's own recordings. When it strays far afield from that format, the results can be skippable, such as the pedestrian pub rock vocals of one Bingo Durango, or the lounge lizard act of Mitch Friedman. More successful deviations from the expected straightforward covers are found in the spoken poetry outings by John Cooper Clarke and Luke Wright; Kerry Getz's singer/songwriter-oriented approach on "She Rings the Changes" (it's interesting enough in and of itself to hear a song of Newell's sung by a woman); and the buzzing girl-group punk of Lee Cave Berry's "No Static."