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Where the #@$% is Alice?

There’s that old story about how 70s Brit band Smokie got their mojo back in the 90s, writes Indrajit Hazra.

music Updated: Apr 30, 2010 22:19 IST
Indrajit Hazra

There’s that old story about how 70s Brit band Smokie got their mojo back in the 90s. While they were magnificently failing to peddle a collection of their old hits in an orchestral format in the early 90s, Onno Pelser, a DJ in the Dutch cafe Gompie, was exciting crowds with his version of the Smokie hit, ‘Living next door to Alice’. Pelser would turn the volume down after the line, “For 24 years/I’ve been living next door to Alice” and invite the crowd to shout: “Alice? Who the fuck is Alice?”

The DJ Gompie version (they recorded the song afresh with the new line) was a huge club hit the world over and people who didn’t know the difference between Smokie and ‘Smoke on the water’ lurrved the song. Even Smokie ended up covering the Gompie ‘cover’ and finally managed to wet their beaks.

Almost Alice, an anthology of original songs apparently inspired by Tim Burton’s wonderful film loosely based on Lewis Carroll’s two Alice books, is a Gompie-Smokie-style attempt to get the younger crowd. If you thought Burton’s Alice in Wonderland would inspire some great trip-hop or edgy New Wave-Goth-tinged psychedelic electronica, pick up the new Groove Armada album, Black Light (about which on another sunlit night). Even for the oldies, who expect a more Sgt Peppered fare giving off Lucy in the sky with diamonds fumes, the only ruby cut for them is a cover of Jefferson Airplane’s ‘White rabbit’ at the end. Instead of the gloriously-throated Grace Slick, we have to do with an emo-glossed Grace Potter and the Nocturnals.

But in accordance to what the king in Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland advised, let me begin at the beginning and go on till I come to the end, then stop.

After a happy sonic confusion that ends in the pounding of piano keys, Avril Lavigne launches into ‘Alice’. She’s irritating as she screeches with all the emo-bluster that her fans crave for. Let’s move on, shall we?

The All-American Rejects do the moody number, ‘The Poison’, a plonkety-plonky acoustic ditty (“I guess that sometimes/we both lose our minds/to find a better road”) where frontman Tyson Ritter pretends to be Alice’s left-behind boyfriend. Off with Owl City’s head as they nasally plough through a tweeny popsicle called ‘The Technicolor Phase’. Florida hard rockers Shinedown at least put some spit and sweat into their ‘Her name is Alice’. The only problem is that it could have been ‘Her name is Marianne’ a song inspired by Robin Hood, or ‘Her name is Michelle’ a song inspired by Barack Obama, or....

Since I’m not in the 12-21 age group myself, I expect the world from one of my old favourite’s, the great Cure frontman Robert Smith. He covers ‘Very good advice’, a song from the old 1951 Disney animation feature Alice in Wonderland (lyrics being Carroll’s original words). At last we get inside the loopy, upside down, scatter-brained world we were supposed to enter in this album. Franz Ferdinand puts music to Carroll’s ‘The lobster quadrille’ sounding sinister and nicely Nick Cave-ish.

Wolfmother’s retro-riff-rock in ‘Fell down a hole’ puts the tea pot to boil. But I would have preferred Jack White madness to straight pumped-up jabberwock'n'woll. Earlier on, Metro Station’s ‘Where’s my angel’, All Time Low’s ‘Painting flowers’, ‘Strange’ performed by Estonian singer Kerli with German band Tokio Hotel are average VH1 numbers you pop into your iPod to feel bouncy on your way to school.

The whole enterprise of Almost Alice is fake, an attempt (which I’m sure will be successful) to get the vodka mix-drinkers to bite off a bit of the franchise. The album has as much of Alice in Wonderland’s mood and tone in it as a plate of biryani has papaya in it.

Almost alice
Various
Buena Vista Records, Rs 295
Rating: **

They also push iron

Not any such problem in the Iron Man 2 soundtrack. In an unashamed display of brand-squeezing, the producers of the movie have just repackaged a ‘Best of AC/DC’ album. But who cares if after pulling such a fast one we get classics from the Aussie hard rockers like ‘If you want blood (You’ve got it), ‘Highway to hell’, ‘Hell ain’t a bad place to be’ and the staggeringly testosterone-secreting ‘Back in Black’. And for a change the music — Chuck Berry loaded on to ballistic missiles — perfectly syncs with the film’s tone.

Iron Man 2
AC/DC
Sony Music, Rs 399
Rating: ***1/2