RAISING HELEN: SOUNDTRACK
Review by Brad Green:
You can fool some of the teenagers all of the time, you can fool all of the teenagers some of the time, but you can’t fool all of the teenagers all of the time. In my early years at high school, Devo’s Whip It was a massive hit single, yet it sounded as exciting to me as the classics master intoning Latin declension. Listening to it again as the opening track here, I’m gratified that while I was as prone to be reeled in by a gimmicky hook as the next credulous schoolkid, this was one time that I got it right. While I now appreciate that the Devo de-evolution idea was more interesting than most pop concepts, not only has their synthpop sound dated dreadfully -- I never condemn good music for simply going out of fashion -- the song is fundamentally dull.
This soundtrack is a mix of retro and contemporary numbers, and while it never threatens to be an outstanding compilation, most of the rest of it well and truly whips Devo, and there’s one old Simon And Garfunkle number that deserves a new lease of life in Australia as a federal election looms.
The album’s lead single is Liz Phair’s Extraordinary. It’s the epitome of a now ubiquitous style for female artists, of which Phair was a pioneer. The vocals fluctuate between pop pixie and rock queen, and are toughened with guitar chords that wouldn’t be out of place on an album from an all male indie band with more tatts than hair. The dynamic works well, and while it’s now verging on the cusp of triteness, I must admit to a penchant for it. This particular song is lifted musically by a captivating tag to the choruses and lyrically by Ms Phair -- whose sexual allure is up there with the overdrive settings on her guitar amps -- serially referencing a willingness to getting naked.
Other strong contemporary tracks include Josh Kelley’s Amazing -- that’s right, Extraordinary and Amazing on the one album! -- and Joan Osborne’s Stand Back. Of the older recordings, John Hiatt is always an easy listen with his lazy blues, and while David Bowie’s Fashion sounds as synthpop and dated as Whip It, it remains, in complete contrast to the Devo ditty, fundamentally interesting.
A change of mood in the middle of the album comes via one of the quirkiest romps in the Simon And Garfunkle canon. At The Zoo is as delightful as it is zany, and I fancy it could serve even better as a theme for broadcasts of Australia’s Federal Parliament. Do our honourable members think they fool even some of the people with their Feeding Time… er, Question Time behaviour? I guess they do. After all, they would be aware that there are voters out there who once made Whip It a hit.
Published September 2, 2004
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TITLE: Raising Helen
ARTISTS: Devo; Liz Phair; Mark McGrath; Five For Fighting; Fefe Dobson; Kristin Osborn of Shedaisy; John Hiatt; Josh Kelley; Simon And Garfunkle; Dana Glover; Joan Osborne; Haylie Duff; David Bowie; Zero 7; Ingram Hill