Album: Various artists

Wig in a Box, Off

Andy Gill
Friday 07 November 2003 01:00

The outsider is always a figure of extreme peculiarity in rock operas - if not a deaf and dumb and blind kid, then a trans-gender German immigrant left literally sexless by a botched sex-change, as in Hedwig and the Angry Inch. A benefit album for the Harvey Milk School, this all-star alt.rock compilation of songs from the latter is effectively the Hedwig equivalent of the soundtrack to Ken Russell's film of Tommy, a second bite of a well-masticated cherry featuring over-the-top performances by such indie luminaries as Frank Black, Rufus Wainwright, The Breeders, They Might Be Giants, Bob Mould, Jonathan Richman, Polyphonic Spree, Yoko Ono and Yo La Tengo. As allegories of gender stereotyping go, it's an appropriately mixed bag, ranging from the plaintive (Ben Kweller & Ben Folds' "Wicked Little Town") to the punkish (Fred Schneider and Sleater-Kinney's "Angry Inch", Yoko and Yo La Tengo's "Hedwig's Lament"), with the electro-pop of Imperial Teen's "Freaks" and Hi-NRG disco stomp of Bob Mould's "Nailed" offering alternatives to the guitar- and piano-based pop settings. Highlights include Frank Black's rockabilly "Sugar Daddy", Cyndi Lauper's melodramatic "Midnight Radio", and the beautiful "Milford Lake" by John Cameron Mitchell and the opera's composer Stephen Trask.

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