Diane Birch: The Velveteen Age

I was born in 1973, which pretty much puts me smack dab in the middle of Gen X. I was a kid as the Cure and Siousxie and the Banshees were taking over alternative radio, but I remember becoming aware of them when I started high school in 1987. I had already become schooled in Duran Duran via Girl Scout camp outs, so of course it was an easy transition to exclusively “college” and “alternative” music.

I loved the music and the “alternative” persona that was so 1989, so Winona Ryder ala Heathers, if you will. I wore all black, ALL the time. I hung posters of Robert Smith in my room, listened to 93.1 WXRT exclusively, and couldn’t be bothered with pop sensations like New Kids on the Block. I played the Pretty in Pink soundtrack over and over and over in my pink Panasonic boom box for years on end. When Diane’s cover of Echo & the Bunnymen’s, “Bring on the Dancing Horses” came on, I almost fell over. I hadn’t heard the song in at least 15 years, but I immediately knew all of the words.

Diane Birch is a bluesy, soulful singer/songwriter/piano player who is ten years my junior. She has, however, impeccable Gen X taste when it comes to music. The Velveteen Age is her tribute to the music she loved growing up, music she heard via the older sisters of her friends, movies and other sources that were already nostalgic in the mid 90’s for the era that was the 80’s.

It takes a lot of courage to make a cover album that consists entirely of songs beloved by a subset of a generation. Most people around in the 80’s remember New Order. But it’s only the passionate fans of Joy Division who remember that Joy Division came first (r.i.p. Ian Curtis).

Birch talks about her introduction and obsession with Goth, and how, at sixteen she went through a phase that changed her. She was the same sixteen year old I was, only with more musical talent, and stricter parents. And she was doing the Goth thing in 1999, if you can imagine.

So, how are the covers? I like them. Not everyone will. But I like her style, so I like what she’s done with the tunes. Here’s a sample of what she’s done — and of course, if you go to You Tube and you can read what the world thinks of them.

And then, because I couldn’t resist going through and listening to all of the originals, here’s Robert Smith circa 1981. As I watched it, I couldn’t help thinking, “Wow. After all this time? I really, really, really want to make out with him.” Enjoy.

(Disclosure: Yo, FTC: S Curve Records sent me a copy of this album. I chose to review and share my findings on my own accord, and received no compensation in exchange for doing so.)

15 thoughts on “Diane Birch: The Velveteen Age”

  1. Holy hell! I am one of those people who really like covers of songs if done well (this makes my undying love of The Detroit Cobras completely valid). And I really like ones that are done in a different style, so needless to say I’m lovin’ this.

    I’m also a big fan of Laundromat Record’s “High School Reunion”, which is a compilation of covers of 80s teen movies.
    Dresden Dolls doing “Pretty in Pink”: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gAp2Sg0xU7o

  2. OhMyGoodnessGracious I had forgotten how cute and sexy Robert was! But I quibbled at his makeup application skills. 80’s alternative was so exciting. I discovered WHFS 99.1 (RIP) out of Annapolis, Maryland one night by accident and was hooked. I was the first in my prep school to discover A Flock of Seagulls and thought I was ready for college in Boston. HA! Boston in the early 80’s was the best. Black shoes with scrunched down white socks over fishnet stockings, long duster coats (purchased at thrift stores) with brooches on the lapels, black clothing, shirts buttoned to the top, gelled hair, and smeared eyeliner. Aaahh. I remember seeing Til Tuesday playing at an MIT dorm party. You could get into T.T. The Bears for $5 on Tuesdays, I think…

    Oh sorry I am way off topic. That was a long jaunt down memory lane. I am skeptical about listening to Ms. Birch’s album. Yes I am being a stubborn oldster here and want to preserve my pure memories. I’ll check out her youtube videos, not sure I want to purchase the album.

    1. oh the brooches!! I was all over the brooches in 1987. I inherited QUITE the collection from my late grandma, and I never left the house without one! Sidenote: when I wasn’t wearing my Cure tshirt, I was wearing a stylish vest with a brooch either on the lapel or at my throat. Because I was cool like that…:)

  3. How strange that I was just discovering this album yesterday and thought about reviewing it for Persephone! I’m just a couple of years older, Sally J, and I was given ‘Vision Thing’ by Sisters of Mercy (on tape!) by a friend in my 9th grade English class. I was totally lost from then on.

    I thought her versions of these songs was really lovely.

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