To commemorate the second leg of the Shaking the Habitual tour, the Knife re-recorded several key tracks from that album, as well as choice songs from the rest of their discography, in the style they performed them in concert. Shaken Up Versions ends up being more than just a tour souvenir -- instead, it brings balance, as well as a new perspective, to their entire body of work. Karin and Olof Dreijer don't just make all of the mini-album's songs match their post-Silent Shout mood of frostbitten intensity; even that album's selections, the bookends "We Share Our Mother's Health" and the title track, sound brighter and more animated than they did originally. Rather, Shaken Up Versions bridges the surreally sparkling pop of their early albums and the darker territory they carved out later with engaging results. Deep Cuts' "Got 2 Let U" maintains its funky mischief despite its relatively spare arrangement and Karin Dreijer's untreated singing (though it suggests her vocal chords might be part Silly Putty). Meanwhile, "Without You My Life Would Be Boring," one of Shaking the Habitual's rare pop songs, is warmed up with more acoustic instrumentation, including the steel drums that have been one of the group's mainstays since the beginning. Wisely, the Knife gives Light Asylum's Shannon Funchess the spotlight on a version of Deep Cuts' "Pass This On" that gives a raw intensity to its Scandinavian/Caribbean synth-pop hybrid, as well as on a molten version of the Habitual standout "Stay Out Here" that sounds even more unnerving than the original thanks to layers of jittery drums and vocals. This bracing percussion captures the energy of the Shaking the Habitual live show, which incorporated elements of decidedly mainstream phenomena like karaoke and aerobics along with its avant-garde ambitions. Just as importantly, the album reclaims some of the joy that seemed like it might be a casualty of those ambitions, and may even give fans intimidated by Habitual's foreboding length and darkness a new appreciation for how it fits into the Knife's overall body of work. Refreshing in its conciseness and brightness, Shaken Up Versions embraces change even as it unites the different eras of the Dreijers' music. ~ Heather Phares
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