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Grant-Lee Phillips 

nineteeneighties (Zoe)

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.

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More by Dan LeRoy

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