“Do you trust your friends? Would you let them redecorate your apartment, or do your homework for you? Would you let them buy your groceries? Would you leave them in charge of your kids? And if you did, what would they change?”
So reads the beginning of the liner notes from Do You Trust Your Friends?, the album of remixes and reimaginings of songs from Stars’ Set Yourself On Fire, now out on Arts & Crafts. The record, a long time in the making, is comprised of thirteen different artists giving their own unique spin to an individual song from SYOF, sometimes drastically reinventing the song and taking it far away from the dreamy-pop world that Stars inhabit.
By enlisting musicians with a wide range of sounds (Final Fantasy, Metric, Junior Boys, Jason Collett and more), it’s not surprising that Do You Trust Your Friends? is hard to listen to from beginning to end because the sound is so sporadic. While this eclectic mixture also gives the album a certain charm and allows the ability to hear how SYOF can translate to a variety of styles, it also promotes the idea of a competition between songs and artists. Do You Trust Your Friends? is, in many ways, not an album but a collection of song adaptations that either pass or fail.
The disc is almost evenly split between songs that work and ones that… well, let’s just say we’d rather listen to the original. Stars’ other labelmates perform admirably, led by The Most Serene Republic’s take on “Ageless Beauty.” Gone are the heavy guitars, replaced by an airy acoustic strum that blends splendidly with Amy Millan’s soft vocals. “One More Night” gets recreated by Apostle of Hustle, becoming a more up-tempo stomper that perfectly captures the sexual desperation of the song in Andrew Whiteman’s vocals and distorted guitar. Other notables include Metric stripping away the grittiness of “He Lied About Death” and replacing it with a floating piano melody that makes the song sound more like Stars than the original, as well as The Dears’ take on “What I’m Trying To Say” and the remix of “Set Yourself On Fire” by Montag.
No song is as confusing as “Soft Revolution,” recorded by The Stills, the one song that bares little resemblance to the original. It has been transformed into something that would be appropriate for the final duel in a Western movie and doesn’t really work. Final Fantasy’s remix of “Your Ex-Lover Is Dead” is a little too slow and plodding without drums (though, in all fairness, he may have drawn the toughest assignment as that song is pretty much perfect to begin with). Camouflage Nights’ version of “Calendar Girls” is boring until Kevin Drew takes over vocal duties for the chorus and mucks everything up with a very ill-suited performance.
While Do You Trust Your Friends? is an interesting experiment and has loads of talent behind it, it’s no surprise that the disc is an equal mix of good and bad parts. We can only recommend it for huge fans of SYOF. Everyone else might want to buy it on a song-by-song basis.