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Sam Taylor-Wood, "I'm In Love With A German Film Star"

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This EP is the third collaboration between British artist/filmmaker Sam Taylor-Wood and the Pet Shop Boys. The trio seems to convene every five years or so to cover odd, semi-forgotten pop songs (they’ve previously tackled Serge Gainsbourg’s "Je T’aime…Moi Non Plus" and the uncomfortably sexual Donna Summer/Georgio Moroder disco smash "Love to Love You Baby"). This time around, they unearth a minor 1981 hit by obscure postpunk band The Passions. I am mystified as to how this wound up being released on Kompakt.



Sam Taylor-Wood & Pet Shop Boys - I'm In Love With a German Film Star (The Mixes)

For those unfamiliar, Sam Taylor-Wood has collaborated with Elton John, made the world’s largest photographic installation, and is probably best known for being commissioned by the National Portrait Gallery to make a film of David Beckham sleeping. However, she has also done some fairly intriguing work, such as a time-lapse video of an "impossibly beautiful" bowl of fruit rotting (called "Still Life").  Taylor-Wood is also directing a short film that prominently features the music of the Buzzcocks.  Consequently, I assumed that her motivation for releasing this song tied into an accompanying video and I was (as usual) right, but it is only a mildly diverting one (an actress dressed like Marlene Dietrich remains (relatively) motionless, while a cigarette endlessly burns without getting smaller).

The original song by The Passions is pretty bitchin’. In theory, I should like Taylor-Wood’s cover too, as Sam’s vocals are quite similar to Barbara Gogan’s and the guitar parts have been inventively replaced with a wavering and submerged-sounding keyboard and occasional static-y washes of sound. The track feels very suave and urbane, which is what I expect from the Pet Shop Boys. Unfortunately, the "clubby" beat and the slick production create an emotional distance that strongly detracts from the song's inherent wistfulness.

The four remixes are pretty homogenous, but I was admittedly startled by the satanic-sounding pitch-shifted vocals and dissonant orchestral swells at the end of the Pet Shop Boys remix. The "Stuck In The Eighties" remix by German producer Mark Reeder is quite fun (sexy thumping beats, clapping, breathy telephone line vocals, a New Order-esque synth bassline), but unfortunately quite bloated (it is over nine minutes long).  On a related note, extreme music nerds may remember Reeder as a former member of short-lived and extremely unprolific Factory Records synthpop band Shark Vegas.  As for the rest of the tracks, well...there's not much to say: the Gui Boratto remix doesn't especially stand-out much and the instrumental version of the Pet Shop Boys remix is howlingly inessential.  Releasing this song as a five song EP was probably not a good idea, as no one wildly diverges from the source material, resulting in a sense of frustrating sameness and maddening filler.  That's a shame, as it's essentially a damn good song, but it definitely yields diminishing returns when listened to five times in rapid succession.

Though I cannot fathom why anyone would need to hear all five versions of this song, I'm sure it will find a lengthy and fruitful life wherever people congregate to dance. And in England, apparently, as it debuted at number one on the BBC dance chart.   And, of course,  it is always appreciated when people are given reason to revisit great postpunk songs.  I am eager to see what this intrepid threesome tackles next.


Last Updated on Tuesday, 07 July 2009 13:42  


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