Fast and Decent

Belle and Sebastian, resplendent
photo: Matador Records

A few months back, this 22-track benefit compilation for the international War Child organization earned two distinct honors: At 26 hours in the making—from recording to digital downloading—it is currently the fastest-assembled album ever given a wide commercial release. (Someone alert Jack White.) With over 100,000 tracks downloaded inside a week, it is also the fastest-selling album download yet. Considering the unassailable nature of War Child's goal—"to advance the cause of peace through investing hope in the lives of children caught up in the horrors of war," per its website—it's natural to want to embrace the album (even if Elbow are on it). Human decency—there are worse things.

But Help: A Day in the Life (a sort of sequel to the first War Child comp, 1995's Help, with tracks by Blur, Suede, and other Britpop heavies) is actually recommendable for more than its moral certitude: Belle and Sebastian's "The Eighth Station of the Cross Kebab House" is as slyly resplendent as its title; Antony and Boy George rip the beating heart out of "Happy Xmas (War Is Over)"; Kaiser Chiefs' cowbell-enriched "I Heard It Through the Grapevine" somehow doesn't sound like the work of total fuckwits. Best of all, the built-in time restraint seems to have loosened up some of the more self-indulgent artists' contributions. Who knew Thom Yorke could drool into his piano as casually as he does in "I Want None of It"?

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