Punisher revamps with added Rob Moose strings
Alex Rigotti
13:47 20th November 2020

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It’s no secret that Phoebe Bridgers really, really fucking loves Elliot Smith. You’ll find numerous references to the indie-folk legend in her critically-acclaimed LP Punisher, released just five months ago. The self-described ‘copycat killer with a chemical cut’ returns with a new EP that remixes four songs from Punisher into gorgeous string accompaniments with the help of producer and arranger Rob Moose (Taylor Swift, Bon Iver, FKA Twigs). 

Whilst the arrangements are all very pretty in general, two cuts in particular stand out. The original ‘Saviour Complex’ uses the guitar to soundtrack Bridger’s suffering in a thankless relationship, but the Copycat Killer edition heightens her fraught anxieties. The tense, shrill atmosphere allows Bridger’s voice to warble and harmonise with the string section. "Emotional affair/Overly sincere" her voice falters amongst lilting, sawing violins. 

‘Chinese Satellite’, on the other hand, swaps out gauzy guitars and booming drums for the percussive slaps and rips of the cello bows on their strings. The strong backbeat creates a pulsing anxiety perfectly suited to Bridgers’ struggles with religion. Combined with the soaring strings in the chorus and the silvery, pleading vocals, the Copycat Killer version of ‘Chinese Satellite’ leaves the original for dead.

It’s a shame to then hear other songs fall short in their own arrangements. Bridgers adopts the whispery tones of Elliot Smith on ‘Kyoto’, which deals with imposter syndrome. The original indie-rock version perfectly encapsulates the anger and frustration that Bridgers feels; here, Bridgers’ defeated whisper in the chorus is underwhelming. On ‘Punisher’, she’s out of rhythm, and her voice feels alienated from the rest of the instrumentals. The dramatic rumble towards the EP’s titular line is fantastic, but it’s not enough to sustain the energy of the rest of the piece. 

This EP is a gorgeous rearrangement of her songs, but it adds little dimension to the world of Punisher. Phoebe Bridgers fans will love how these versions highlight her voice and reconstruct some of her most beloved hits –unfortunately, it also reconstructs some misses. 

Copycat Killer is out now.

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