Ulver Childhood's End
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01. Bracelets of Fingers (The Pretty Things)
02. Everybody's Been Burned (The Byrds)
03. The Trap (Bonniwell's Music Machine)
04. In the Past (The Chocolate Watchband)
05. Today (Jefferson Airplane)
06. Can You Travel in the Dark Alone (Gandalf)
07. I Had Too Much to Dream Last Night (The Electric Prunes)
08. Street Song (13th Floor Elevators)
09. 66-5-4-3-2-1 (The Troggs)
10. Dark Is the Bark (The Left Banke)
11. Magic Hollow (The Beau Brummels)
12. Soon There Will Be Thunder (Common People)
13. Velvet Sunsets (Music Emporium)
14. Lament of the Astral Cowboy (Curt Boettcher)
15. I Can See the Light (Les Fleur de Lys)
16. Where Is Yesterday (The United States of America)
Erratic is a suitable description for Ulver's body of work. Starting out as a prototypical black metal group, they flirted with acoustic folk on 1996's Kveldssanger. That was before they went off and did various non-black metal projects, including a movie soundtrack and electronic-focused avant-garde. Their new compilation, Childhood's End, is just another strange twist in Ulver's career. A covers album featuring nothing but psychedelic rock from the late ‘60s, Childhood's End is an admirable endeavor marred by questionable song choices and a hard time making these songs their own entities from the original compositions.
Very few people will have heard of half the bands Ulver covers on Childhood's End. They dug into some obscure corners of psychedelic rock, with Jefferson Airplane and The Byrds the ones mainstream listeners may know from various singles on classic rock stations. In regards to these bands, Ulver goes out of their way to not choose obvious songs. The rest of the bands on the 16 tracks were either lost in the haze of the ‘60s drug scene, had label/personal issues, or released just one album.
Ulver stays firm and committed to translating the drug-induced vibes the original versions of these songs lazed around in. Other than updating the production, and a few different arrangements, these covers are note-for-note with the originals. Vocalist Kristoffer Rygg matches the soaring clean style most of these songs rely on. His voice is better suited for poppy material, like "I Had Too Much To Dream Last Night" and "66-5-4-3-2-1," which do accomplish the improbable feat of outdoing the originals.
Ulver does slip on a few tracks that don't have the same atmospheric punch. The Left Banke's version of "Dark Is The Dark" had the solemn orchestral ending that is watered down by Ulver. David Crosby gave off an emotional surrender to "Everybody's Been Burned" that can't be reproduced by Rygg's dry voice. The vocal interplay on Jefferson Airplane's "Today" isn't matched on the cover, and suffers because of it. A few more upbeat tracks in the second half, like "The Trap," would have helped the album from dragging.
Seeing any band, metal or otherwise, give credit to long-forgotten psychedelic rock is something that deserves praise. As such, Ulver is acknowledged for reintroducing bands that are still relevant today. However, their targeted audience is a question that can't be easily answered. A vocal majority of metal fans will not be eager to sink into 40-year-old acid rock, and most Ulver fans will probably shrug at the band confusing them yet again. Taking chances is nothing new for Ulver, though Childhood's End is a venture that doesn't always pay off the way the band may have intended it to.
Bottom Line: An admirable push to put the spotlight back on forgotten psychedelic rock bands that doesn't live up to the potential Ulver have always exceeded.