Tortoise & Bonnie "Prince" Billy

The Brave and the Bold (Overcoat Recordings)

The Brave and the Bold

Howard Greynolds, owner of Overcoat Recordings, is an indie-rock dreamweaver. Last year he brought us the Iron & Wine/ Calexico collaboration, In the Reins, and now he's decided to gift us with an entire record of covers by Bonnie "Prince" Billy (a.k.a. Will Oldham, he of the beard-folk and white tracksuits) and legendary post-rock instrumental outfit Tortoise. The pairing largely succeeds because it does just what Tortoise and Oldham should be expected to do on any given record: namely, confuse the shit out of everyone. "Cravo É Canela" comes from a 1972 tropicalia record by Milton Nascimento and Lô Borges, and the sound of Oldham singing in Brazilian Portuguese makes for a jarring opener. However, while Oldham may be weird, he's not Fred Schneider-weird enough to pull off a song like Devo's "That's Pep!" Two coats of studio fuzz keep Elton John's "Daniel" just shy of transcendence, but Richard Thompson's "The Calvary Cross" and a startling reinvention of Bruce Springsteen's "Thunder Road" fare much better, with Tortoise and Oldham recasting the Boss classic in dark, quivering guitars and squealing synth lines, twisting the romanticism of the original into something much more sinister. It's enough to make you wonder if the "Mary" Oldham is singing to isn't zipped up in a body bag in the backseat.
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