Various Artists: ‘Radio 1 Established 1967’

'There’s too much good stuff on here to utterly dismiss it but when it’s bad it borders on agony'

Thanks to Radio 1 celebrating their 40th birthday this September, somebody had the bright idea of assembling 40 contemporary artists, giving them each one year from the last 40 and allowing them to cover a track from their allocated year. The results are, if we’re being kind, ‘variable’. But we’re not being kind. So here goes.

Kaiser Chiefs kick off with The Move’s ‘Flowers In The Rain’, which was the first ever song played by the station but was rubbish at the time and continues to be so four decades later. The Fratellis’ ‘All Along The Watchtower’ is a covers-band mixture of reverentially straight delivery and guitar-shop fret-wanking, Amy Winehouse’s ‘Cupid’ is entirely ersatz reggae with a suspiciously drunk-sounding vocal (funny, that) and Robbie Williams simply does not deserve to go anywhere near anything by The Kinks (he does ‘Lola’ in the same way that he does everything else). The Streets doing Elton’s ‘Your Song’ is simply bizarre, with Mike Skinner scarcely altering the original track but delivering the vocal in his usual flat, conversational style. Another dismal mismatch is Kylie Minogue attempting to capture the louche perversity of Roxy Music’s ‘Love Is The Drug’ – she sounds about as erotically charged and debauched as KT Tunstall who, as luck would have it, comes next and massacres a Bryan Ferry number (‘Let’s Stick Together’). Kasabian do The Specials’ ‘Too Much Too Young’ as if they’re trying to take the piss out of the original and then McFly, against all human logic and basic notions of what is right and good, are allowed to have a crack at The Jam’s ‘A Town Called Malice’. By the time Lily Allen lends her perfunctory trill to The Pretenders’ ‘Don’t Get Me Wrong’, 20 years of songs have been annihilated. And not in a good way. There are a few notable exceptions – Sugababes’ dubby, sweet-harmonied ‘Betcha By Golly Wow’, Franz Ferdinand’s typically smart, angular stab at Bowie’s ‘Sound And Vision’ and The Raconteurs magnificently heavy trashing of ‘Teenage Kicks’ – but it’s thin pickings.

The second CD, which brings us up to modern times, is slightly better – Stereophonics treat Hot Chocolate’s ‘You Sexy Thing’ with way too much furrowed-brow seriousness to humorously sleazy effect, Girls Aloud offer a typically poised, electro-tinged finesse of Wheatus’ ‘Teenage Dirtbag’, and Klaxons’ take on Blackstreet’s ‘No Diggity’ is absolutely magnificent, the perfect mix of sublime and ridiculous. The Twang (‘Drinking In LA’), Maximo Park (Timberlake’s ‘Like I Love You’) and The Enemy (‘Father And Son’, which is technically from 1970 but qualifies here as 2005’s entry thanks to a dodgy Ronan Keating cover) can all leave with their head held high. But it’s the horrors that are more memorable – if you’ve ever wondered what Luke Pritchard lending his absurd strangulated vowel sounds to Ace Of Base’s ‘All That She Wants’ might sound like, now you can know the full torment of it. And, given that they are already basing an entire career around replicating it, giving ‘Don’t Look Back Into The Sun’ to The View was a bit lazy. This decision more than anything sums the whole thing up – a missed opportunity. Frustratingly, there’s too much good stuff on here to utterly dismiss it but, by crikey, when it’s bad it borders on physical agony.

Pete Cashmore