The Origin of Love

This is the second time “The Origin of Love” has been a Long Pauses Song of the Moment. Again, I was inspired by seeing a live performance of Hedwig and the Angry Inch — this time here in our own “scruffy little city,” Knoxville, Tennessee. K-Town did me proud. The Actors Co-op’s production is funnier, and its music is better, than the version we saw in Washington, D.C. three years ago. The show lives and dies on its Hedwig, and Joseph Beuerlein is impressive. I don’t know how anyone can do a two-hour show and still have the voice to shout “Lift Up Your Hands” at the end of “Midnight Radio,” but Beuerline just got stronger and stronger. My only complaint is that he’s a little too butch. For the play to really work, Hedwig must seduce everyone in the audience, including the heterosexual men, and he never quite did. (His effect on my wife is another story.)

Jonathan Richman’s version of “The Origin of Love,” like the other links I posted yesterday, are all from Wig in a Box, which is perhaps the only “music from and inspired by” cover record I’ve ever heard that’s a fantastic album on its own terms. Hedwig‘s best songs — “Origin,” “Wicked Little Town,” “Wig in a Box” — are each given straight (no pun intended), respectful readings. Rufus Wainwright’s version of “Origin,” for example, sounds exactly like you’d expect it to sound. And The Polyphonic Spree’s cover of “Wig” is the only one of their songs I can stand to listen to a second time.

What I love about the album, though, is its inspired reinventions. Spoon turns “Tear Me Down” into a Tommy-era Who song, and the pairing of Yoko Ono and Yo La Tengo on “Hedwig’s Lament / Exquisite Corpse” is just brilliant. Robyn Hitchcock’s “City of Women” won’t change the world, but it makes me strangely nostalgic for Bauhaus and Peter Murphy records.