In 1991, a mysterious singer calling herself Q Lazzarus made the sort of massive cultural imprint most musicians only dream of: having her song “Goodbye Horses” soundtrack the iconic Buffalo Bill mirror scene in Silence of the Lambts. And then, at the moment most musicians would capitalize on early success – she vanished.
Full Albums features covers of every track off a classic album. Got an idea for a future pick? Leave a note in the comments!
Devo released their brilliantly-titled debut album Q: Are We Not Men? A: We Are Devo! forty years ago today. Though later albums would yield bigger hits (we’re still a few years from “Whip It”), their debut remains their most iconic record. Blending their poppiest hooks with their artiest quirks, it works wonderfully as a statement of purpose.
As Mark Mothersbaugh and Gerald Casale told me when I wrote about their “Satisfaction” cover for my book (you can still read an excerpt of that chapter at The New Yorker), even completing the album became a monumental pain. Having Brian Eno produce your debut record would seem a coup, but sessions quickly became fractious. Devo wanted to record the album with zero studio experimentation. They’d honed the songs over several years of concerts and rehearsals, and saw no reason to change them. Eno did not go for that approach, sneaking into the studio with his pal David Bowie after the band left and adding new instruments at least once. The next morning, Devo caught on and wiped them. Devo’s instincts have rarely led them astray, but boy I’d be curious to hear what Bowie was trying to add to the tracks.
The last time I saw Josh T. Pearson live, he pulled a knife on an unruly audience member. Or at least he threatened to – my memory’s fuzzy, it was almost a decade ago. The former Lift to Experience frontman certainly looked like a man who might pull a knife on someone, clad in a jetblack bad-cowboy outfit, hat and long beard and all, under the scorching Austin sun.
It was a rare show promoting a rare album: Pearson’s solo debut Last Of the Country Gentlemen, one of those albums that got passed around like a secret by those in the know. Over half of the seven tracks topped ten minutes, harrowing fingerpicked ballads with titles like “Sweetheart, I Ain’t Your Christ” and “Honeymoon’s Great! Wish You Were Her.” It was my favorite album of 2011, and those of us who grew obsessed with it couldn’t wait for a follow-up.
The wait took seven years. Finally, a few months ago, album number two – cheekily titled The Straight Hits! – finally came out. A genre mashup of country and rock and soul, it sounds nothing like the first album. Written quickly to break out of writer’s block, every song was written according to Pearson’s self-imposed “Five Pillars”:
1) All songs must have a verse, a chorus and a bridge.
2) The lyrics must run 16 lines or less.
3) They must have the word ‘straight’ in the title.
4) That title must be four words or less.
5) They must submit to song above all else.
The album is a lot of fun – fun is the last word one would apply to the previous album – and it’s been a thrill to see Pearson re-emerge from hibernation. Not least because with every rare album cycle he delivers some knockout covers. Last time around it was “Rivers of Babylon” and a stunning Christmas EP.
Not only does one-man blues punk The Legendary Tigerman regularly get compared to Tom Waits; he gets compared to the artists Tom Waits himself once got compared to: Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf, etc. A long line of gruff and gritty bluesmen. This one just comes with a Portuguese accent. So it’s only fitting that on his new EP Misfit Ballads – a companion to new album Misfit, about to be released in the US and UK – the Legendary Tigerman tackled Waits himself.
If the only “Kiss” cover you know is that Tom Jones one, get ready for something new, pussycat. On her upcoming album Don’t Call Me Angel (out October 12), Washington state singer-songwriter Hilary Scott turns the Prince classic into a smoky blues ballad. She starts out sounding like the Mississippi Delta before the song gradually builds into a blast of Bonnie Raitt soul. It’s unlike any “Kiss” cover we’ve ever heard, and one of the best Prince homages to come out since his passing.
Bluegrass is a genre big on covers, with any fiddler worth his strings able to whip out old mountain songs, folk traditionals, and anything Bill Monroe or John Hartford ever wrote. On their upcoming album Cover Story, though, Charlottesville bluegrass quintet Love Canon take on more novel source material: pop hits of the 1980s. In fact, they gravitated towards the least acoustic sounds around, pickin’ through electronic dance songs by the likes of Mr. Mister, Peter Gabriel, and the song we’re premiering below: Depeche Mode’s “Enjoy the Silence.” And we thought last year’s bluegrass Radiohead cover was inventive!