Twentieth Century Blues

PUBLISHED : Friday, 22 May, 1998, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 22 May, 1998, 12:00am

Twentieth Century Blues - Various Artists (EMI) Neil Tennant, full-time Pet Shop Boy and co-producer of this project, said this Noel Coward tribute was never meant to be reverential, but rather, to see if Coward's songs could work in a different framework and time.


The answer is a resounding 'yes'. In Twentieth Century Blues, the wit and irony of half a century ago still rings remarkably true.


Puritans might be aghast at how the young guns of today have contorted Coward's gems, twisting the lounge pop of yore into pumping beat fests or dark guitar-rock. But as Tennant said, it is these reinterpretations that are the most entertaining and interesting.


The Divine Comedy's I've Been to a Marvellous Party uses Born Slippy-like techno, brilliantly updating the meaning of a party in the drug-fazed '90s.


Vic Reeves' Mrs Worthington and Suede's Poor Little Rich Girl usurped the original sardonic joy and turned both into gripping, venom-filled odes to an age when showbiz wannabes or the hollow yuppies whiled their life away in despair.


However, if innovation is not your thing, the old guard offers some reprieve, with Paul McCartney, Bryan Ferry and Elton John providing loyal and reverential covers of Coward numbers.


One for the musicologist and pop-lover alike.