Rediscovering ‘If I Were A Carpenter’
“Oh, it was crap music but was also extremely interesting. Her voice was so angelic it was like butterscotch and Richard used to layer it, which was a fairly radical studio technique.It gave it a super-lush feel – not unlike what My Bloody Valentine are trying to do now. They were whitebread middle-class people and Karen was somebody who was supposed to be so perfect. It was a heavy slice of Americana, like the Walton family.” – Thurston Moore
By Walter Price
If I Were A Carpenter (A&M ’94) has a place in my history. When it came out I was burned or burning out on the now every band and label wants to have their irritating toes in the grunge genre. When this deeper in most spots tributes of sort to the 70’s AM and lite FM radio brother and sister duo, I didn’t have proper time to become interested. I listened to it a handful of times and before I could form my own opinion on it others were cramming their overly hyped praises down my thought processes. So I gave up on it. I was a moody person back then.
It turns out, 20 years later, I’ve rediscovered If I Were A Carpenter is a fantastic achievement. An album that was thought up by two believers (Producer Matt Wallace (Faith No More, Deftones, REM) & David Konjoyan) who loved their their form of ‘whitebread’ music and probably realized a golden opportunity to showcase The Carpenters in new thrilling of the moment sounds in its release and they did have the know how to gather some of the best of the best alternative, pop, post punk and college radio mainstays to explore what are ultimately darker than intended soft classics.
I have never hated The Carpenters; in fact, I’ve always thought their almost weird stage presence and underlying conflicting emotional and sonic styles made for good stuff. It wasn’t until Karen Carpenter passed away and I learned for the first time about eating disorders and her extremely turbulent struggles did the songs find a deeper haunting intrigue in me.
Nothing morbid, just an interest in getting to know what was really going on in those years when this sibling hit machine was killing it on the charts and softly rocked a whole generation on radio and TV. Not my generation really but my mother’s for sure.
After rediscovering this true gem of music history, I found that the standout tracks are the tracks written by Richard Carpenter in whole or in partnership. Redd Kross kill on ‘Yesterday Once More’, Sonic Youth get twisty and dive darker deeper on ‘Superstar’ and Cracker re-perfects ‘Rainy Days and Mondays’.
Perhaps this album is more of an exploration or unique translations than a tribute to what The Carpenters had done. So be it. I suggest If I Were A Carpenter should be done again by a new crop of who’s who in the indie music scenes today to keep the legacy going or just see how others read the same book. Interesting.
Glad I got over my 20 year ban on this one.
American Music Club – “Goodbye to Love” (R. Carpenter 1972)
Shonen Knife – “Top of the World” (R. Carpenter 1972)
Sonic Youth – “Superstar” (R. Carpenter 1971)
The Cranberries – “(They Long to Be) Close to You” (Written by Burt Bacharach / Hal David covered by The Carpenters 1970)
Bettie Serveert – “For All We Know” (Written by Both Royer, (Jimmy Griffin (Bread) and Fred Karlin. Released by The Carpenters in 1971)
Dishwalla – “It’s Going to Take Some Time” (Written by Carol King & Toni Stern and covered by The Carpenters in 1972)
Sheryl Crow – “Solitaire” (Written by Phil Cody & Neil Sedaka covered by The Carpenters in 1975)
Johnette Napolitano with Marc Moreland – “Hurting Each Other” (I don’t know who wrote this song but I know you can a version from a pre-Guess Who Chad Allan & The Expressions doing it back in 1965. The Carpenters covered it in 1971)
Redd Kross – “Yesterday Once More” (3:58) (R. Carpenter & John Bettis 1973)
Babes In Toyland – “Calling Occupants of Interplanetary Craft” (Written by John Woloschuk and Dee Long of Klaatu. Covered by The Carpenters in 1977)
Cracker – “Rainy Days and Mondays” (R. Carpenter 1971)
Matthew Sweet – “Let Me Be the One” (Written by Roger Nichols & Paul Williams 1971. Carpenters released it 1971)
4 Non Blondes – “Bless the Beasts and Children” (Written by Perry Botkin, Jr. & Barry De Vorzon. The Carpenters released it in 1971 & 1972)
Grant Lee Buffalo – “We’ve Only Just Begun” (Written by Paul Williams and released by The Carpenters in 1970)
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