A comp of many purposes: to raise money for the War Child charity, which feeds the young and hungry in war-torn countries (baking bread in Afghanistan at this very moment, in fact), to celebrate 50 years of NME's showcasing the tops of the UK-singles pops and to illustrate how today's artists have either much love and/or little use for yesterday's hitmakers. Which means, more or less, this is a disc of covers where the result's only as good as the interpretation, since intention is noble enough, though you know what they say 'bout the road to hell; yup, leads straight to Noel Gallagher's house. Actually, the Oasis contribution, featuring Noel on vocals (which raises the question: Why Liam, ever?), ranks high among this disc's 16 offerings; theirs is a "Merry Xmas Everybody" (Slade, 1973) worth a spin midsummer, as it shimmers and smiles like few things this band's done in ages. A stocking stuffer, as opposed to wanting to stick a sock in it.
Quality, of course, varies wildly: Muse couldn't make gold out of platinum, certainly not when beating the hell out of "House of the Rising Sun" (The Animals, 1964), which ranks high among the list of most overrated songs, well, of all effin' time. And the More Fire Crew (Who dat? Wait, don't care) couldn't be less appropriately named; their "Dreams" (Gabrielle, 1993) is a bit of a frigid nightmare. And too bad Elbow bends with "Something in the Air" (Thunderclap Newman, 1969), when it could have broken with its far superior "Independent Women," the best and hardest-to-find cover of 2002.
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But the buffet line brims with bounties nonetheless, chief among them Manic Street Preachers' cheery "Out of Time" (made popular by the Rolling Stones, made pop by Chris Farlowe in 1966), Faithless & Dido's moody "Dub Be Good to Me" (Beats International, 1990) and Starsailor's "All or Nothing" (Small Faces, 1966), which proves it ain't the band that's annoying as hell, only its annoying-as-hell songs. But this comp would be worth the import price if only for two cuts: Badly Drawn Boy and Jools Holland's "Come on, Eileen" (Dexy's Midnight Runners, 1982), which elicits a horny-horns grin and proves Mr. Gough quite the capable pop star, and Jimmy Eat World's "Firestarter" (Prodigy, 1996), stripped way down and bummed way out till the song almost eats itself.