Marking their 40th anniversary with a covers collection, American ensemble fathom the depth of despair to find hope.
“Destination Unknown” has always been not only this band’s hit single but also a motto because Dale Bozzio’s didn’t really chart their course, preferring instead an element of surprise in every new album – and a bit of humor, too, from her stint with Zappa onwards. That’s what informs “Dreaming”: a bunch of the chanteuse’s favorite pieces fashioned for both her old fans and freshmen who need reminding that a character in “iZombie” was preceded by an artist with the same name – making its appearance on the front cover now, just in case. As for the tracks, they work well enough as a whole, even though separate selections struggle to impress the listener.
While “Love Will Tear Us Apart” feels like a lazy pick, the choice’s cold obviousness is balanced from the beginning with a sinister, suspenseful, slowly pulsing soundscape of “California Dreamin'” that’s rendered as Krenwinkel’s reverie to be reflected in the record’s title track, one of the three originals here. Another one, “This Time” – a twangy, sludgy number – emerges as an echo of THE THE’s infectious “This Is The Day” that gets interpreted earlier in the running order and signals its emotional apex. Without this cut, the album could feel too deadpan, so each show of what may lie beneath the glacial surface should chase away the shoegaze gloom as does the band’s take on “We Gotta Get Out Of This Place” – dry and devoid of roar yet scary as an electric kiss of chaos.
Still, “Playing With Fire” (sic!) by Nanker Phelge fails to hide Dale’s smile – reeking of innocence, passing the sentiment to “Incense And Peppermints” and throwing psychedelia out the window, where nocturnal glam of “Windows” left shimmering traces. Sadly, no white-noise riff can inject any buzz into MP’s reading of “Just What I Needed” and a few more covers don’t really add anything to their template, existing quite comfortably in the overall context and enriching the group’s catalogue. Here’s hoping that Bozzio has a plan for her next move this time.