Cover albums are tricky balancing acts. How much does a performer preserve in a song, and how much can be reinterpreted? How far do artists impose their own style on material vastly different from their own?
Bonnie Pink’s cover album, Reminiscence, certainly attempts to set itself apart by including material both familiar (the Bangles’ “Manic Monday”, Fairground Attraction’s “Perfect”) and unfamiliar (the Sundays’ “Through the Dark”, Misty Oldland’s “Got Me a Feeling”).
At the same time, Pink also attempts to stretch from the singer-songwriter yoke of her own studio work. She goes full-on reggae for Yamashita Tatsuro’s “Your Eyes” and the Pretenders’ “Don’t Get Me Wrong”, and she tones down the J-pop drama of Southern All Stars’ “Manatsu no Kajitsu”.
Her interpretations, though, don’t really reveal anything new about the source material.
Pink’s rendition of “Perfect” mimics the original’s acoustic arrangement, while the pared-down version of “Manic Monday” loses the song’s angst about the start of the work week.
Her cover of Aimee Mann’s “That’s Just What You Are” hews close to the original and reinforces the influence Mann has on Pink’s own work. And while her cover of the Sundays’ “Through the Dark” strikes out on its own, it doesn’t quite preserve the grounded ethereal quality of the original.
There’s one thing Reminiscence did achieve — it reminded me that Hedwig the Angry Inch was a really good movie and a damn good score.
Pink’s version of “The Origin of Love” won’t make anyone forget John Cameron Mitchell’s original performance, but as far as cover material goes, it’s a somewhat daring choice for a mainstream musician.
As far as walking the balancing act is concerned, Pink is a bit wobbly. Reminiscence doesn’t reach for the kind of daring as, say, Bill Frisell’s Have a Little Faith, but it does find Bonnie Pink trying new things.