While I never want to hear a busker sing Red Hot Chili Peppers' "Under the Bridge" ever again in my life, there are some covers I don't mind. Cat Power coolly singing "Wonderwall" with permafrost finesse, or Built to Spill alchemizing Macy Gray's "I Try" with off-kilter rock these sounds I can handle. And Mark Eitzel's album-length foray into covers isn't bad either.
On Music for Courage & Confidence, the one-time American Music Club frontman has chosen to reinterpret everything from Billie Holiday to Culture Club. With a low, understated voice that will make you think of suede and stubble, Eitzel takes a low-key approach to these songs. Subdued keyboard notes and the patter of soft percussion underscore "Do You Really Want to Hurt Me?," while "I Only Have Eyes for You" meanders along on an acoustic strum, dampened beats and distant piano notes.
Think of dank and unlit barrooms and you'll hit upon the sluggish atmosphere these moody covers evoke. Only the hectic percussion and insistent horns of "Move On Up" perforates this foggy feel. (Personally, I prefer Eitzel's understated dynamics, and find the spirited pluck of "Move On Up" to be rather cheesy.)
Music for Courage & Confidence does verge on Adult Contemporary at times (c'mon, with a title like that, it has to), with the direction feeling a little dated. Lacking the startling mark of cool-hearted covermongers such as Cat Power and Mark Kozelek, this is still an easeful album of mostly slow-blooded tunes.