For a disc with such a modest ambitions, Amanda Palmer Performs the Popular Hits of Radiohead on Her Magical Ukulele spans a surprisingly broad range of styles (and quality). A uke-only “Fake Plastic Trees” drags on for over five minutes, the bare arrangement not giving the simple tune the nourishment and support it needs. “Idioteque,” on the other hand, soars with piano, percussion, and multi-tracked vocals that envelop the ukulele in a twee-folk soundscape. Released as the first single a month ago, it remains the clear standout, excavating the strong melody buried beneath the original’s glitchy drum machine.
Palmer can’t seem to decide whether this cheap-as-hell EP (more on that in a minute) is a tossed-off gift to fans or a proper album. A song like “High and Dry” sounds like she recorded it one morning in her bedroom, but clearly a lot of thought went into the intricate arrangements on “Idioteque” or the beautifully low-voiced “No Surprises.”
Just when the careful craftsmanship begins to win you over though, she swerves right with a solo “Creep,” sung well above her natural range (“I don’t care if it hurts” indeed). Then, two songs later, she gives us…another solo “Creep”! This one has an audience, the theory perhaps being that a bold sing-along fleshes out a barebones performance. Wrong. There’s a reason Radiohead have stopped playing their biggest hit in concert; hundreds of people joyfully belting a song of alienation feels, well, creepy.
Following in Radiohead’s footsteps, Palmer is practically giving the EP away, charging only the 84 cents she needs to pay the band for licensing fees. Viewed in that light, this album is a must-buy. In “No Surprises” and “Idioteque” Palmer offers two tender reinterpretations well worth 42 cents apiece. In the others, you get what you pay for.
Amanda Palmer Performs the Popular Hits of Radiohead on Her Magical Ukulele Tracklist:
01) Fake Plastic Trees (originally on The Bends)
02) High and Dry (originally on The Bends)
03) No Surprises (originally on OK Computer)
04) Idioteque (originally on Kid A)
05) Creep (Hungover at Soundcheck in Berlin) (originally on Pablo Honey)
06) Exit Music (For a Film) (originally on OK Computer)
07) Creep (Live in Prague) (originally on Pablo Honey)
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