Actors-turned-musicians. Musicians-turned-actors. Whichever way you put it, the idea of either combination usually leaves a bad taste in the mouth - not least because Hollywood stars (who are, let's face it, the worst offenders) have a bad track record of crossing over successfully into music. Hi, Russell. Hello, Keanu.
So when Scarlett Johansson announced that not only was she recording an album, but an album of covers by one of the most revered musicians of the 20th century - Tom Waits - most people tittered dismissively behind their hands, mentally consigning it to their cerebral bargain bin. The marked difference between Anywhere I Lay My Head and AN Other's self-indulgent project, however, is that Johansson's got an impressive team behind her. Members of Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Celebration and TV on the Radio all lend a hand at various intervals (with Dave Sitek of the latter on production duties), and David Bowie even bizarrely pops up on two tracks.
Still, is it actually any good? Tom Waits' extensive back catalogue has been covered by many, but few have matched the gravel-throated troubadour for originality and intensity. Johansson's dreadful vocal performance - a composite of barely-audible murmurs and weak intonations delivered in her deep, sombre undertone - ensures that at least vocally, these tracks are no match for their prototypes.
But musically, there are some interesting moments on Anywhere I Lay My Head. Sitek's imagination has previously been documented in his production work elsewhere, and he manages to set the tone for this collection of atmospheric, well-crafted songs beautifully. Town with No Cheer, Green Grass and No One Knows I'm Gone are all nicely-executed tributes, while I Don't Want To Grow Up's swinging snarl is interestingly transformed into a Transvision Vamp-esque '80s pop tune.
Perhaps setting her sights so high for a first attempt has been Johansson's downfall. Carrying off a whole album's worth of singular originals will certainly generate press attention - but her inexperience as a singer ultimately makes this album flop far more than it pops. Nice try, though.