Dedicating an album to covering the work of one artist can often mean striking a difficult balance. Maintaining the heart of what makes the originals so persistent whilst not coming forward with a carbon copy is extremely difficult. What Moping in Style has going for it is a pretty stellar cast of musicians ready to rework Adam Green’s songs. Father John Misty, Jeffrey Lewis, Lou Barlow, Regina Spektor, The Libertines, Sean Lennon – these are hefty names to be attached, and so producing a tribute album that justifies its runtime seems a lot more likely.

To begin with, I should say how well Adam Green’s songwriting is highlighted here. Whilst its easy to gravitate towards his work as part of the Moldy Peaches, his solo career houses some of his best work, and it really shines under the lens of fellow artists lovingly giving their own renditions. It would be near impossible to tackle summarising every artist on this compilation’s reinterpretations, so I will attempt to highlight particular attempts and how they represent the album as a whole.

The opener, Regina Spektor and Jack Dishel’s take on ‘We’re Not Supposed to Be Lovers’ recontextualises the song as a duet, injecting the song with a dose of mutual resignation absent from the original. Where Green’s song is a bittersweet acceptance of a relationship’s aftermath, the version that opens Moping in Style adds the new complexity of two people coming to terms that they aren’t the one for each other. It’s a great example of what covers can add by building off existing foundations in ways not envisioned by the creator.

On the other hand, Father John Misty’s take on ‘Musical Ladders’ never strays too far from its source material. Whilst I’ll personally never complain at getting a new Father John Misty vocal performance, and hearing him croon over a lush whir atop gentle horns and keys is compelling throughout the songs runtime, I don’t think it does anything that would persuade me to return to this over the Adam Green version. Maybe that is one of the central issues of this compilation: It makes me want to go back and listen to more Adam Green, but once this album is finished there aren’t many covers I’d think to listen to again. The difference between a good cover and a great cover is how much a great one opens up the original to pour itself in or exposes something in the original song that was less visible to begin with. The Nine Inch Nails and Johnny Cash versions of Hurt are substantially different, shaped by personal circumstance and artistic vision. Botfly’s cover of Elliott Smith’s ‘Cupid’s Trick’ from a similar tribute album (2022’s It’s Raining in My Heart – A Tribute to Elliott Smith) brings the song’s heaviness to the surface. Moping in Style doesn’t have as many of these moments as I was hoping for.

That’s not to say this compilation is bad – it isn’t, it’s a really solid collection of covers. The aforementioned Regina Spektor and Jack Dishel effort is a great cover, the instrumentation on Frankie Cosmos’ ‘Secret Tongues’ is comforting with its fluffy electric guitar tone and Binki Shapiro’s ‘Getting Led’ levitates in a spacey current, separating it from the piano ballad basis it is reworking, adding another 2 and a half minutes whilst it’s at it. Then there’s the humour of the closer and its Doors parody alternate version of ‘Musical Ladders’ attributed to ‘The Dooors’. The core issue is that it never breaks through and becomes great on its own merit. What is illuminated throughout the entire thing is that if it hasn’t happened yet, Adam Green should get his flowers as a bulletproof songsmith.

Various: Moping in Style: A Tribute to Adam Green – Out 1st December 2023 (Org Music)

Delerm – Friends Of Mine (Adam Green Cover) (