So no, it’s not just a strange album title. Peggy Sue are actually playing the songs from the soundtrack of Kenneth Anger’s experimental 1963 film. It’s a pretty great and wordy soundtrack, and it needs to be, as the film itself contains no dialogue at all. There are a few legendary songs by legendary artists: Martha & the Vandellas, Elvis Presley and Ray Charles to name but a few.
I guess Peggy Sue really love Scorpio Rising. They performed a live soundtrack to a screening of the film last year, and have chosen to pop it on an album for us before the release of their next record. It’s a pretty unlikely story, but it makes for a rather pleasant listen.
If you don’t read the album title as a literal explanation of what is on this record, and insist on seeing it as some cryptic demand (not that I did that…obviously…), then you could momentarily be forgiven for thinking that this was just a new Peggy Sue-written album. Their style is still the most prominent aspect of this record, despite the fact that all of the tracks are covers, and most of them covers of extremely well-known songs. The razor-sharp vocals cut above the rock guitar and military drums. The harmonies are perfectly executed – now haunting as in He’s A Rebel, now tongue-in-cheek in My Boyfriend’s Back – and the band fearlessly alter the fundamental melodic progressions in a number of the songs. Where there was soulful harmony, now there is dissonance. It often lasts for just a moment, but it’s enough to keep things on the right side of tense.
I suppose that we associate these classic songs with relatively poor recording quality but also with solid (and now immediately recognizable) melodic lines and precise execution. Peggy Sue have made these songs into garage band songs, and yet these grungy, unpolished versions of such oft-heard tracks sound modern, legitimate and exciting. This actually could be a recently written album, which is a testament to Peggy Sue’s ability to adhere strictly to their established style, whilst at the same time maintaining the musical integrity of the songs they have bravely chosen to cover.
It’s a tricky one to pin down. It’s an unusual idea and well-executed, but it is still a covers album. Peggy Sue write good songs; when do we get to hear a new batch of those? Still, in the interim, it’s a great substitute.