A Houseguest's Wish
The only previous Wire albums that dared to tackle just a single track were based on Drill, the band's seminal epic of rhythmic repetition. A Houseguest's Wish instead bravely heads into pop territory, offering 19 takes on the Wire hit that nearly was: Outdoor Miner.
You might be thinking that this track doesn't hold up to repeat listens—at least, 19 of them in a row—and you'd be right, at least for the most part. In a single sitting, this album is somewhat tedious listening, but if you instead tackle it in short bursts, it's rather more rewarding.
To the credit of the artists involved, none of the takes on Wire's original are particularly poor, but then it's hard to wreck such a gem off a song. The biggest issue with the album is the lack of deviation from the source material—even the Drill-oriented tributes were more varied than A Houseguest's Wish. Perhaps there's more scope for experimentation when the source material is simpler, rather than being a more structured pop song.
So, what we have, then, is a set of 19 often slight variations of Wire's original track, each artist attempting to stamp their own identity on the song, mostly by way of messing with the vocal arrangement, tempo or instrumentation; sometimes this pays dividends, and at other times, this makes for awkward results in place of the dreamy, free-flowing nature of the original.
We have the surprisingly listenable, countryesque one (Adam Franklin); the half-speed one (Timonium); the creepy, f——ed-up and engrossing one (Fiel Garvie); the 'a bit like David Gray slowed down' one (above the orange trees); the famous, but unremarkable one (Lush); the utterly brilliant, fuzzy one (Flying Saucer Attack); the 'almost unlistenable comedy-modern-punk one' (Boy Division); the strangely pleasant instrumental hotel-lobby music one (Should); the a-bit-like-a-fuzzy-Sparklehorse, fitting-end-to-the-compilation one (Junetile); and several more besides. As you can imagine, some are rather more successful than others.
In short bursts the CD comes across fine—like a maxi-single by a deranged producer that insisted on doing 'just one more mix' 18 times. However, A Houseguest's Wish is ultimately a curiosity rather than an essential purchases, and perhaps best suited for completists and die-hard Wire fans clamouring for another fix (or 19) of one of the band's all-time classic songs.
Craig Grannell (February, 2005)