"Thing of the Past"

(Gnomonsong 2008)Vetiver - Thing of the Past

Listening to any band cover their favorite songs is an act that always elicits excitement and a little bit of fear. What will they do? Will they mess it up? Cover songs are a fine art, as I'm sure any bar band will attest, and to do it well -- really well -- to make the song your own is difficult. But Vetiver are ready to shoulder that task. Led by Devendra Banhart's buddy Andy Cabic, the group makes you believe that the twelve songs on "Thing of the Past" are theirs. In fact, if you did not know any better, you could be tricked.

While some selections on "Thing of the Past" are obvious choices, others seem more unexpected. Take, for example, Norman I'm-only-remembered-for-"Spirit in the Sky" Greenbaum's "Hook & Ladder" which is loose and likable as a thumping bass line, banjo, whistling and a choir of voices come together. Elsewhere a smoky and bluesy version of "Hurry on Sundown" sounds more like Brian Jonestown Massacre than the original artist, a pre-Lemmy Hawkwind. Vibrant electric guitar stands out against the smooth folk sound of Elyse Weinberg's "Houses" while the lively banjo of Louden Wainwright III's "The Swimming Song" jumps right out of the energetic song.

Admittedly Vetiver offer few surprises. The group (and a number of guest musicians) create fluid sounds with rich melodies, an especially crisp recording and steady, tight instrumentation. Granted, the band is reserved and hesitant to make any significant changes to the songs which Cabic and company enjoy but they still manage to add their own slight spin. Vetiver commits fully to each track and delivers each performance with heart and soul. "Thing of the Past" is a worthy holdover for those Vetiver fans awaiting the band's next album of original songs.


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