Various War Child: Heroes

Back in 1995, the Britpop community rallied around the War Child charity (a non-profit organization that helps children in war torn countries) and produced The Help Album, an impressive collection of exclusive tracks that both raised significant awareness for the cause and represented the zeitgeist to a tee. After a similar album (Help!: A Day in the Life) was virtually ignored for a tenth anniversary release due to its middling results, 14 years after the original War Child has assembled another fine cast of today's most relevant big names to drive home the message that war is still taking lives. Heroes improves on 2005's poor showing with a much stronger (read: more interesting, less British) cast delivering cover versions of some memorable classics. The best of the bunch come from the featured artists that visit the more obvious source material. For instance, Peaches bares all for a take on the Stooges' "Search and Destroy," using only a looped motorik beat and gargling synth for a feverish stomper. TV On the Radio use heavy pulsations for their buddy David Bowie's "Heroes," while the Hold Steady live up to their biggest influence with a passionate version of Springsteen's "Atlantic City," and Scissor Sisters out glam Roxy Music with a glittery, disco-fied spin on "Do the Strand." Elsewhere, surprises come via Yeah Yeah Yeahs' straight-up punk rendition of Ramones' "Sheena Is A Punk Rocker" and Beck letting the riffs fly on Bob Dylan's "Leopard-Skin Pill-Box Hat." But I expected more from Franz Ferdinand and their unfortunately live cover of Blondie's "Call Me," Hot Chip's limp, noodly attempt at Joy Division's "Transmission" and Duffy's obnoxious and deflating stab at the often rabblerousing "Live and Let Die" (see GN'R). Being a charity album, it feels wrong to be too hard on the few weaknesses Heroes has because truth be told, it's a rewarding effort full of creative adaptations and mostly entertaining results. (EMI)