Grant-Lee Phillips has always been known as a sharp singer-songwriter. His '80s version of Bowie's Pin-Ups
, however, proves that he's even smarter than you realize. These eleven mostly acoustic versions of Reagan-era alternative classics are a wise acknowledgment of a simple truth: While there's no point in recording an album of sound-alike covers, collections of unrecognizable "reinterpretations" are equally worthless. The alterations Phillips makes are usually slight quickening the pace of New Order 's "Age of Consent," slowing down the Cure's "Boys Don't Cry" but effective, revealing plaintive new depths in both songs. The same is true of the Pixies' "Wave of Mutilation," the disc's most noticeable rethink; shorn of Black Francis' aggression, a lovely country waltz emerges. Even the tunes that suffer most without their vocal melodrama fare well in Phillips' gentle hands. A lovely, soft-focus snapshot of an era, nineteeneighties
is as good an introduction to a musically underrated decade as it is a tribute.