album reviews

Petra Haden
Petra Haden Sings: The Who Sell Out

A cappella as a genre existed long before Björk's Medulla; every college campus is swarming with groups re-creating songs with just the human voice. At Mike Watt's suggestion, That Dog's Petra Haden has added her own voice to the a cappella library by covering The Who Sell Out entirely, down to the between-song radio jingles and the baked beans-drenched cover photo.

Unfortunately, Haden's decision to sing the entire album herself compresses the sound to her own vocal range, losing the richness and breadth of a full band. She is most comfortable singing Pete Townshend's guitar lines, and her re-creations of John Entwistle's bass parts either get lost (as on the monotonous "Relax") or force the entire song too high. Her transposition of the moving bass line on "Odorono" sends her lyrical solo into her thin upper register, leaving the song sounding tinny and shrill.

Haden's choice to record the album on an 8-track cassette limited the number of parts she could include, and the drums are usually the first to go. Keith Moon propelled the original "Mary Anne With the Shaky Hand" and connected one verse to the next; Haden's version trudges along devoid of percussion until the feeble "Bring her drums!" interlude in the song's final seconds.

Haden stresses every note equally, forcing a jarring rhythm where the originals flowed; her every "dun-dun" on "Sunrise" breaks up the melody rather than sustaining it. That attention to detail is perhaps the biggest downfall for Petra Haden Sings: Rather than reinterpreting and reinvigorating the songs, she merely reassembles them.

-Catherine P. Lewis

.: Originally published: the Baltimore CityPaper: 1 June 2005
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