If you’ve clicked on the link to read this review, chances are you’ve got a good sense of humor or you’re bored. Sad but true, such is Ink 19’s audience, too ironic and obscure to admit being taken by simple pop music. Let it henceforth be known that when I write in all caps I speak the truth: I LIKE COVERAGE!
The very concept of Mandy Moore resurrecting songs lost and forgotten by fans and oldies stations alike should at least stir up your blood enough to check out the track list. The disc is rooted very deeply in the ’70s, with equal time given to the singer/songwriters (Carly Simon, Cat Stevens and Carole King) and the new wave (XTC, Blondie and The Waterboys). Now compare the risk of releasing an album sans a single, bankable club hit with Britney Spears tacking an impotence-ridden version of the Stones’ “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction” on one of her discs. Mandy Moore has balls, and you know it.
The most fascinating aspect of this album is the re-contextualization of these neglected gems in the current pop soundscape. One cave dwelling reviewer criticized the “overblown production” heaped on many of the songs. Is this even a valid point at a time when “subtlety” and “restraint” have been absent from radio’s lexicon for years? Of course not. It’s true that producer John Fields does have a tendency to go Robo-Spector occasionally, morphing pastoral folk melodies into binary walls of sound, but it’s an oddly hypnotic synthesis that pays off big on the “rock” songs: “The Whole of the Moon,” “Can We Still Be Friends” and “Drop the Pilot.” Fields even ups Mandy’s indie cred by roping in Evan Dando and Son Volt/Jay Farrar collaborator Eric Heywood for guitar and pedal steel duties on “Anticipation.”
I’m not foolish enough to claim that Mandy’s versions eclipse the originals, but all of us, even the most pretentious music geeks, should be grateful a voice in commercial pop music is willing and excited to attempt such an iffy undertaking. Think of this as a call to arms people, a chance to cast aside the oversexed Christina, the under-talented Britney and the mis-educated Jessica, and usher in The Age of Mandy, the one, true goddess of pop. Make this your 2004 resolution or I will come over to your house and beat you. Seriously.