Under the Radar shines a light on lesser-known cover artists. If you’re not listening to these folks, you should. Catch up on past installments here.
Bass + Drum – Guitar = All Rock.
That’s how singer Ivan Russia describes Mr Russia: Guitar-less rock and roll. A conceit like that might color every aspect of the music – a one-trick band, so to speak – but it doesn’t. In fact, you forget it pretty quickly. The tunes stomp along on their own momentum with what the Chicago Sun-Times’ Jim DeRogatis called “a slash-and-burn mix of adrenaline and melody.”
Add a touch of spooky glam and you’ve got killer cover-song potential. The trio delivers. They’ve appeared on tribute albums to David Bowie, Radiohead, and Nick Cave. For each they prepared a video using found or filmed footage (similar to what we saw from The Peptides). For “Boys Keep Swinging,” a faceless girl cryptically explores her apartment. “The National Anthem” (the Radiohead song) blends public-domain footage of girls dancing with creepy A-bomb PSAs. Finally, The Birthday Party’s “Wild World” uses footage from a ’60s zombie film called Carnival of Souls (yes, it is streaming on Netflix).
We checked in with Ivan to find out more about each cover. See what he has to say, then watch the videos.
Mr Russia – Boys Keep Swinging (David Bowie cover)
Ivan says: “Boys Keep Swinging” is the first song we ever learned to play together and the first song we recorded. The song’s got some tongue-in-cheek quality. It helped us be serious musicians but not take ourselves too seriously. I credit it with pointing us in the right direction.
Mr Russia – The National Anthem (Radiohead cover)
Ivan says: Since Mr Russia has no guitars, “The National Anthem” made the most sense for us to put our touch on. We wanted it to sound like the original with heightened adrenalin.
Mr Russia – Wild World (The Birthday Party cover)
Ivan says: This song is really atmospheric if you listen close you can hear all sorts of things that go bump in the night, from footsteps to running water and human bones clanging together.