Apr 022014
 

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.

When your share your name with a father who’s a member of the Country Music Hall of Fame… when you grew up living next door to George Jones and Tammy Wynette… when you have Shel Silverstein for a mentor… a life in the music business would seem preordained. That’s what Bobby Bare Jr. has made for himself, from duetting with his father in 1973 to selling t-shirts and working lights at concerts to becoming a full-time musician when he was about thirty. It’s been a hard life [the documentary Don’t Follow Me (I’m Lost) follows him and his band down the long road of touring], but it’s paying off. This year alone he stole the show at SXSW’s Lou Reed tribute with his take on “Oh! Sweet Nuthin’,” and he released his very first cover of a song of his father’s, “Shame On Me,” saying that he “figured after 8 of my own albums I can’t be accused of ‘coat tailing’ at this point.”
Continue reading »

Feb 152013
 

Five Good Covers presents five cross-genre reinterpretations of an oft-covered song.

A song about a kid who thinks he’s taken acid. – Randy Newman

You’re in the desert. You’ve got nothing else to do. NAME THE FREAKIN’ HORSE. – Richard Jeni

If an 8-track, shag-carpeted Frisbee could sing, it would be America. – Cracked.com

The band America and their lyrics to their breakout hit “Horse with No Name” may have been fodder for jokes, and they may have sounded so much like Neil Young that Neil’s own father called to congratulate him on the song’s success, but America (the group)’s easygoing vibe and inscrutable story were just what America (the country) wanted to hear in 1972, and the record shot to number one before its author, Dewey Bunnell, was out of his teens. Continue reading »

Jan 042011
 

You probably didn’t think you were in desperate need of a soaring indie cover of America’s “Ventura Highway,” but you were. Now, courtesy of Samuel Ramos of Fort deClare, you have one. The song began life as a nice little acoustic folk song. Ramos amps it up though, making it perfect for a drive through the countryside – although he’d much prefer you used headphones.

The cover starts off simply enough, repeating the main guitar hook on a reverb-laden electric guitar with some nice acoustic strumming helping to build up the song’s steam before it fades out for the verse. Once the chorus hits, the song explodes into grand post-rock theatrics. Huge, crunchy guitar lays the foundation while the vocals and various other effects float on top. Continue reading »

Jul 142009
 

Some songwriters should just stick to writing instrumentals. These lyrical duds are in turn hilarious, embarrassing, and painful in their inanity. Did no one proofread?

Mama Goose and Diamond Chest – The Thong Song (Sisqo)
Ok, obviously this is a stupid song. “I like it when the beat goes du-nuh, du-nuh / Baby, make your booty go du-nuh, du-nuh.” I don’t know what “du-nuh” is exactly, so it just sounds like ol’ Sisqo forgot to finish writing the lyrics. Here this San Francisco twosome performs a ukulele duet that sounds like it was as fun to record as it is to hear. They’ve got covers of other inane pop songs at their myspace. [Buy]

Kicksville – Invisible Sun (The Police)
Sting gets a lot of crap for his lyrics. Some of them I actually think are quite good (see “Don’t Stand So Close To Me”). This is not one of them. First of all, he never tells us why there “has to be” this invisible sun. That conclusion doesn’t seem obvious at all to me. And “it’s dark all day and it glows all night”? Dude, are you sure you’re not thinking of the moon? Plus, if it’s invisible, how is it glowing? [Buy]

Orba Squara – Poker Face (Lady GaGa)
I’m not exactly sure what “I’m bluffin’ with my muffin” means, but I think I should be grossed out. Daughtry and Weezer have both covered the tune, but the winner goes to the folk-thump of Orba Squara, complete with bells. Never heard them? I’ll bet you have… [Buy]

Mundy – Wherever Whenever (Shakira)
When a Shakira cover begins with harmonica, you know you’re into something good. This one includes my favorite line of the bunch in terms of sheer inanity. “Lucky that my breasts are small and humble / So you don’t confuse them with mountains.” A common problem for well-endowed women apparently. [Buy]

Gruppo Sportivo – Horse With No Name (America)
Another one truly shocking in its inanity. Amazingly, it combines the nonsensical (“The ocean is a desert with its life underground”) with the painfully obvious (“The heat was hot”). Gruppo gives it the Latin funk treatment. [Buy]

GOD – Undone (The Sweater Song) (Weezer)
True story: I can’t hear this song without thinking “Wu-Tang Clan ain’t nothing to fuck with!” The reason for that bizarre association is a remix I heard of the two tunes long before I heard either original. Regardless, this song is self-consciously silly, a quality Weezer doesn’t get enough credit for (I wanted to include a cover of “Everybody Get Dangerous,” a truly horrendous piece of work, but artists have understandably steered clear of that disaster. Edit: Holy crap, an a cappella group did cover it! No way.). [Buy]

Max Raabe & Palast Orchester – Blue (Da Ba Dee) (Eiffel 65)
On Superhits, Raabe takes on a whole slew of bad pop songs, from “Oops…I Did It Again” to “Mambo No. 5.” Each gets his trademark big band treatment, and each works surprisingly well in its new guise. The German accent really sells it. [Buy]

Taylor Bacon – Yea! Heavy and a Bottle of Bread (Bob Dylan)
Ironic choice given the post title, ain’t it? To Bob’s credit, this comes out of the basement tapes jam sessions. Meaning, he wasn’t trying to make sense (for more evidence, see “Million Dollar Bash.”) The funny thing is, Bob’s actually really good at writing nonsensical lines. Like, better than someone less talented would be. “Slap the drummer with a pie that smells”? Brilliant. [Buy]

Jump the Flight – E.I. (Nelly)
Nelly’s never been known for their insightful lyrics, but the bit where he compares himself to a grocery store is priceless. These guys’ don’t take themselves too seriously behind the punk rock bravado. The best part is the guy whose only job it is is apparently to yell “niggah!” [Buy]

Goober & the Peas – MacArthur Park (Richard Harris)
Years ago I read (and loved) Dave Barry’s Book of Bad Songs, and this tune took the top spot. It’s one of the few songs whose bad lyrics hit you every single time you hear it. They’re that bad. I mean, these are really bad. So bad I don’t even want to type them. If you don’t know them, listen close. [Buy]