Jun 302015
 

brightersideAs long as there has been Western art, there has been a debate regarding the nature of the simulacrum, a Latin word that originally meant representation but has come, in philosophical circles, to mean any kind of imitation or copy. Plato distinguished between a noble type of simulacra – an exact copy – and an inherently dishonest image that has been distorted or altered (usually by a painter, sculptor, or actor) in order to seem true and elicit a particular emotional response for the viewer. Leaving aside Plato’s alarmist anxiety regarding the power of artist to willingly manipulate a populace via dangerous and immoral entertainments, his two “types” of simulacra represent two poles of a continuum that might be used to describe covers. Covers inherently create simulacra that, depending on the intent of the cover artist, fall somewhere between the perfect replica and the “distorted” copy designed to reposition a song in a new historical or generic context so that it might feel true to a new audience.

The thirteen covers on The Brighter Side: A 25th Anniversary Tribute to Uncle Tupelo‘s ‘No Depression’ all lean toward the latter variety, taking significant liberties to reimagine the album as one that neatly and cleanly fits into the genre of alt-country, a genre that more or less didn’t exist twenty-five years ago. The question of representation becomes even more complicated, though, when one considers the fact that the alt-country lens through which these songs are here replicated is one that is largely believed to have been created or codified by the release of No Depression itself. In other words, No Depression is here being translated into a genre that, in theory at least, it helped invent.
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Jun 272015
 

In Memoriam pays tribute to those who have left this world, and the songs they left us to remember them by.

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On June 27, 2002, John Entwistle died at the age of 57. Four days later, Roger Daltrey and Pete Townshend began a tour as the Who. The show began with Daltrey announcing, “Tonight we play for John Entwistle…. He was the true spirit of rock & roll, and he lives on in all the music we play.” It goes without saying that all the music they’ve played since hasn’t been the same as it would have been with ol’ Thunderfingers in front of his Marshall stack, stone still except for his amazing hands.

While Townshend’s songs were the lifeblood of the Who, Entwistle carved out a distinctive part in the band’s voice with his own writings. Where Townshend’s work could take itself very seriously, Entwistle’s was able to be both lighter and darker – lighter in that it showed a sense of humor, darker in how ghoulish that sense of humor could be. He leavened the band even as he bolstered it.
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Jun 252015
 

For the past couple years, Bob Dylan has stuck to a pretty standard setlist on tour – kind of a bummer from an artist famous for switching it up night to night. And when he kicked off his new European tour over the weekend, he finally did just that. He’s brought in more songs from his terrific new Frank Sinatra cover album, and in Germany he debuted a cover of Willie Nelson‘s 1973 classic “Sad Songs and Waltzes.” Continue reading »

Jun 232015
 
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Season Six of A.V. Undercover from the A.V. Club is here and this time they’re bringing out the banjos. Husband and wife duo, Béla Fleck and Abigail Washburn, pick away on Europe’s 1986 hit, “The Final Countdown.”  (Complete with a big hair wig for Fleck and ratted hair for Washburn.) Continue reading »

Jun 222015
 
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Dave Grohl broke his leg last week and had to cancel a bunch of shows. Given the spate of recent great Foo Fighters covers though, maybe he should have just turned those dates into tribute concerts. Tessa Rose Jackson’s amazing version of the “The Pretender” might work for a quieter midpoint, but a tribute show should definitely kick off with Los Angeles R&B singer Gallant performing his storming new cover of “Learn to Fly.” Continue reading »

Jun 202015
 

They Say It’s Your Birthday celebrates an artist’s special day with other people singing his or her songs. Let others do the work for a while. Happy birthday!

It’s a good time to be Brian Wilson. Earlier this spring, he released No Pier Pressure, his first album of new material in seven years. He is currently touring with Rodriguez, of Searching for Sugar Man (finally-)fame. Love & Mercy, the biopic featuring Paul Dano and John Cusack as different-era Brians, has been getting rave reviews. He’s not Mike Love. And today is his birthday.
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Jun 182015
 
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Despite the initial apprehension towards the reboot of iconic horror flick Poltergeist, there is at least one aspect well worth rejoicing over: Austin-based rock group Spoon taking on The Cramps‘ classic punk boogie tune “TV Set,” off of their seminal 1980 debut Songs The Lord Taught Us.  Continue reading »

Jun 162015
 

Is there an unwritten rule that all of the best dream pop has to come from Baltimore, Maryland? With Beach House, Future Islands, and Lower Dens all hailing from the birthplace of the Star Spangled Banner, it seems like it is. Lower Islands, whose latest release Escape From Evil is making every indie critic swoon, celebrated their recent success with this cover of Hall & Oates “Maneater.” Continue reading »