Irish bands cover U2 for Tsunami Relief Fund

Today FM in Ireland have released ‘Even better than the real thing, volume 3’, a double CD compilation of U2 songs covered by (mostly) Irish artists.

The massive tracklist includes Declan O’Rourke, The Divine Comedy, The Frames and Bell x1 ), while Jerry Fish (ex-An Emotional Fish) tries his hand at U2’s classic ‘One’. Some tracks were performed live on the Ray D’Arcy Show, others recorded in private studios. Proceeds go to the UNICEF Tsunami Relief Fund.

Patrick Lynch reviews ‘Even better than the real thing, volume 3’ for

U2 covered on Irish Fundraiser

Ever wished you could experience the songs of U2 again just like you were hearing them for the first time? That the assembled trademark package of history that has come to be unavoidably associated with the band was to fall away for an hour or so? Well here is such an opportunity.

Even Better Than The Real Thing is the title given to Ireland’s latest fund raising initiative. Compiled and recorded for Unicef in aid of the ongoing Tsunami Relief Fund this double CD features 25 current Irish acts performing 23 U2 songs. It’s a novel idea on many fronts. Obviously the fundraising potential in itself, followed by the chance to hear different takes on these familiar songs and perhaps most notable the fact that it comes from the current crop of Irish performers.

Many of those partaking couldn’t have been more than mere children or early teenagers when the majority of these songs first saw the light of day. Since U2’s meteoric rise in the mid eighties there is a street sense that the band have become more and more removed from the Irish music scene. With the demise of Mother records and excepting the occasional tour support slot U2 have for some years been perceived as somewhat aloof to the nurturing of their hometown scene to any great extent. Not that they are obliged to of course, their vision has always been more worldly than introspective. However it was a widening gap that has been noticed in Irish music circles for some time.

Of course nowadays much, if not all of the Irish music scene operate from different venues and recording studios to those that U2 circulated in and its probably all the better for it. Healthier perhaps that the Irish music scene has long since cast off its U2 shadow. And how the scene has changed for it.

Whereas once hailed as the city of a thousand bands it is fair to say that in today’s Dublin, bands are now outnumbered three to one by acoustic guitar wielding singer songwriter’s. And indeed the most successful of these are well represented on this CD, from the established and top selling Paddy Casey with a quiet rendition of Mothers Of The Disappeared to the gutsy delivery of When Loves Comes To Town by Dublin’s latest arrival in the multi talented Declan O Rourke. Similarly Mark Geary and Mundy turn in top class renditions of All I Want Is You and Seconds.

Comfortably removed with hearing a CD of covers of this sort is the need to sit on the fence while the songs seep in, that fear that the tracks you dismiss today will become your favorites of tomorrow. What’s on trial here is not so much the songs that we know backwards and could sing in our sleep, but the translations of them on offer.

While some of the standard bearers are well represented (Sunday Bloody Sunday and Who’s Gonna Ride Your Wild Horses are included twice) there are enough less obvious choices to endear this. Personal favorites such as Love Is Blindness and So Cruel get their own unique and very different treatments from The Devlins (with Sharon Corr on violin) and Erin McKeown. Meanwhile Heartland and October get moody and evocative interpretations from Bell X1 and Divine Comedy.

The Frames’ 40 and both versions of Who’s Gonna Ride Your Wild Horses by Tom Baxter and Picturehouse disappoint somewhat while standout contributions come from the old reliables like Luka Bloom who is very good on Bad. Also recommended is Love Rescue Me on which Rosey goes for a straightforward country delivery.

An understated, less fussy that the original A Sort Of Homecoming by Hazel Kaneswaran and a more fleshed out version of Running to Stand Still by the hitherto less street cred Mickey Harte are also noteworthy. Elsewhere the Lisa Bresnan piano accompaniment of Sunday Bloody Sunday comes over all Joni Mitchell while Aslan sound unrecognizable on New Years Day. The band go on to explain in the sleeve notes that they chose this song for the cause for its message of hope.

Passable versions come from The Walls of With Or Without You and Irelands newest and youngest answer to Luke Kelly: George Murphy who jokes on the sleeve notes of his cover of Van Diemens Land that if the Edge stole this song from the folkies then he is stealing it back! Things are brought up to date with an inclusion of ‘Vertigo’. And instead of the standard punk treatment one would expect, here it gets the Elvis Viva Las Vegas treatment. ‘Elvis/Kevin Boyle’ as he likes to call himself, a popular tribute act to the King and apparently endorsed by Presley’s own musician’s, gives this a shuffle backing beat and curled lip delivery. Cutest inclusion on the CD comes from the closing St. Fiachra’s Junior School Choir with their rendition of Sweetest Thing.

Overall, as a benefit CD of U2 covers this has a feel of a generation removed, of the hometown youngsters interpreting their ancestor’s songs. And within that distance seemingly lies a great respect. A tipping of the hat from the new comers to the masters. And as with the buskers of Grafton Street before them, surely the greatest compliment these bands and performers can give U2 is to pay homage to their work. To sing these songs are to endorse them, to state loudly they are songs that deserve to be sung, breathed with new life and passed on to newer audiences.

With this tribute U2 have come home yet again and in doing so have really come of age. As witnessed here, from New Years Day to Vertigo, is that what sets them apart from other acts of such legendary status is that over twenty five years down the line they are still doing it. And how.