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Luke Turner , March 20th, 2008 15:35

She and Him

by Luke Turner

Our spies at this year's South By South West tell us that one of the biggest queues at the bash was for She & Him, whose bittersweet piano-driven Californian pop is the result of a collaboration between Almost Famous and The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford star Zooey Deschanel and the ever-versatile M Ward. With Scarlett Johansson's album of Tom Waits covers only just around the corner, it seems that Hollywood starlets are finally boarding the gravy train of the easy pop career that their male counterparts have been merrily riding for years. What a doddle! Your profile is such that the PR campaign is done before a note is even recorded, with even esteemed organs like Pitchfork enthusiastically anticipating Johansson's album before hearing a note. Being able to ring up David Bowie for a hand, as Johansson did, is a bit different from calling up your mate Dave to parp a bit of tuneless trumpet for your “brass section”, while one imagines that neither she nor Deschanel had to cut demos in a studio still ripe from the exertions of the 20 stone drummer from Seminal Vesicle.

But perhaps the girls are going to make a better stab of it than the men. You've only got to look at the evidence to see the litany of embarrassment shat forth by male actors over the years. Take, for starters, chunky former action hero Steven Seagal. He plays his guitar strapped high and rocks a mean purple outfit in this version of 'Wild Thing', but snuffling turd from the weave of a flannel would be preferable to even contemplating a listen of his Mojo Priest album.

Then there's the horrific. I thought that the idea of Kevin Costner having a band was a ludicrous one until a tingle in that troubling holding cell of the brain where the memories of old men in parks dwell liberated itself into a YouTube search. “This is a song you might sing when you're on the porch”, says Costner from the stage of the cruelly named Field of Dreams festival, introducing a rendition of a, er, porch song.

Even those not eternally damned for making Waterworld still manage to cock it up. Johnny Depp might have started out as a musician and turned up on Top Of The Pops with Shane MacGowan, but judging from his band P, the missus doesn't have much to worry about. The amorous screaming in this YouTube clip of P performing suggests that crowd were there less for Gibby Haynes' chain-rattling growl than to swoon over Depp fingering the neck of his guitar. Perhaps This Is Nowhere's pal and Captains Of Industry head honcho Big Ben Myers could suggest a collaboration with genius all-rimming hardcore types Gay For Johnny Depp? We'll supply the tub of lard and useful arm tattoo. Keanu Reeves' Dogstar? Jason Schwarzman's Phantom Planet? The list goes on and on.

The trouble with the new breed (and let's include Juliette Lewis here, for would anyone really care about The Licks if they weren't fronted by the Scientologist fruit?) is they take themselves far too seriously; vast egos and an army of yes-men mistakenly allowing them to believe their sonic abominations are anything more than a hobby that ought to be kept to the palatial living rooms of their LA mansions. So we've to look to stars of the eighties for a pleasing sense of the ridiculous. There's the Hoff, of course, whose video for 'Hooked On A Feeling' is the epitome of blue screen excess. But ultimate credit is due to Aliens and Predator star Bill Paxton, who roped in James Cameron to direct the video for 'Reach', the 1988 single from his band Martini Ranch, a collaboration with members of Devo. Buff female blacksmiths, that's the way forward - Messrs Johansson and Deschanel take note: