Category Archives: Music

The gentle art of the cover, pt. 2

One particularly interesting brand of covers is what we might call “The reclamation of the guilty pleasures”: when a ’serious’ artist covers a song originally performed by an artist considered somewhat tacky or unhip, such as a boy “band” or Las Vegas crooner. Often, it’s more than welcome – after all, girl and boy groups composed by record companies ain’t what they used to be. At times, the interpreter manages to bring forth completely unexpected nuances in the song – often retrieving a rather pretty little melody from under a mountain of unnecessary drum machines and synthesizers.

Today’s subject for that treatment is teen-pop star turned trailer-trash queen Britney Spears. Travis’ version of Baby one more time was just as amusingly shocking as undeniably good when it came out – could a “serious” brit-pop band really do that? They could, and they succeeded.

Things begin to get really interesting, though, by the time we get to the later output of ms. Spears’ songwriters. The charming little Dutchess Stevie Ann sure puts the right spin on Toxic, but the true killer is when The Chapin Sisters veil the same song in their angelic yet sinister vocal harmonies. Absolutely gorgeous, and major kudos for listing their influences at the page as “The Carter Family, The Chapin Family, The Manson Family“. The fact that one of the girls is the daughter of horror maestro Wes Craven makes perfect sense.

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The gentle art of the cover, pt. 1

Good covers is one of my favourite topics when it comes to music, and one I will elaborate on further later. The keen art of interpreting the songs of other performers is often less successful (and at times downright disastrous), but those who master it may bring forth nuances the original performance never had. Jef Buckley’s take on Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah and Johnny Cash’s version of U2’s One are good examples.

Today’s subject is The Stooges’ classic I wanna be your dog. The original still stands strong, but this is a proto-punk beast in the same vein as Kick out the Jams it craves to be played off the hook, full volume, amps all cranked up, and distortion to the max. Therefore, here’s some kickass live versions by different performers.  

The Last Dance & Dead Souls Rising 

The Black Angels

Hotel Fetish

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Records that rox my sox, pt. 1

More than most other things, I’m an audiophile at heart. Music is chronologically the second big love of my life – after natural science and before film. It’s been around since roughly the fall of ’97, my first year in junior high (A period often referred to in my family as my “C90 psychosis”). Music was a great support during this period, which also marked the divorce of my parents – especially a certain wailing inhabitant of Oxford and a grumpy Minnesotan, both of which we will return to later.

Therefore, I’ll regularly publish a piece on one of the records which constitute a part of my musical universe, under the not-at-all-cheesy title Records that rox my sox. It will probably explain why that is the case, and provide a little contextual background for the record itself. Think of it as Desert Island Discs with a completely unknown geezer, who just happens to love music. Some kind of chronological order will probably be established with the next post. The first one, though, goes to a lady I rediscovered two years ago, and who has completely swept my heart away.

 

Polly Jean Harvey is really not a human at all. She is actually an ancient Sumerian fertility godess of raw, unabashed sexuality – the kind you sacrifice the young men of the tribe to at least once every year, so that the crops won’t fail. There is no other way I can explain what happens to me when she sings. The mere sight of her reduces me to a melting, helpless puddle on the floor.

She knows how to write songs, too. In 1995, she was at the top of her creative abilities, releasing a theatrical behemoth of an album, To Bring You My Love. Her vocals are raw and naked, with her soul virtually laid bare. The lyrics manage to hit that precise point where the surging forces of sex, death and religion meet. And the music… well, just listen. And watch.

I could go on all day about the dark undercurrent of the title track, the menacing proto-punk caveman stomp of Meet Ze Monsta, or the astonishing final and very crown jewel of the record, The Dancer. It isn’t really that necessary, though. Just listen. And watch. It will be the most worthwhile 40 minutes you’ve had in a very long time. By the time she asks “Is my vodoo working?” halfway through the record, you will probably be reduced one more of said puddles on the floor. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ll go search the grimoires and spell books to find the occult secrets which grant blessed souls entrance into that cult of hers…

To bring you my love

Meet Ze Monsta

Working for the Man

C’mon Billy

Teclo

Long Snake Moan

Down by the Water

Send his love to me

The Dancer

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