Jun 132014
 

In the Spotlight showcases a cross-section of an artist’s cover work. View past installments, then post suggestions for future picks in the comments!

There is very little that can be considered “new” in the world of popular music — everything builds on something that came before, and influences get combined in different ways. So the idea that you can declare the inventor of a musical genre is ridiculous. Uncle Tupelo didn’t invent alt-country, a mix of country, rock and punk (check out, say, Jason and the Scorchers, the Long Ryders, Rank and File, X, or the Blasters, for example, for proof that these strains were already well mixed when Uncle Tupelo emerged). But it cannot be denied that Uncle Tupelo’s debut album No Depression, which gave its name to the influential message board and magazine that spearheaded the movement, helped to kickstart the genre’s popularity and became one of its cornerstones.

And it all started with a bunch of high school kids.
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May 262014
 

Recently, Detroit band Promartyr paid tribute to their fellow citymen and garage punk legends The Stooges as part of the AV Club series. This was possibly due to Iggy’s 67th(!) birthday falling around the same date, but more likely as a mark of respect for the recently departed Scott “Rock Action” Asheton.

The Michigan four-piece power through “Down on the Street,” an aggressive highlight from Fun House. Frontman Joe Casey initially appears quite juxtaposed to the band as he nonchalantly, hand in pocket, makes his way through each verse, but he becomes monstrously alive for each increasingly antagonistic chorus, leading to a blistering, feedback-heavy finale.
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Jan 142014
 

Back in 2010, Anna Rose performed the Stooges “Gimme Danger” for the “Jam for Ron Asheton” honoring the recently-deceased Stooge with current band members Scott Asheton, Mike Watt and Steve Mackay. As these things generally are, the tribute night was somewhat of a karaoke-esq affair. In the subsequent years though, she stuck with the song, re-arranging it and fiddling with it to arrive at the version you hear below. She delivers the song like nightclub singer with a spaghetti western bent, like if Blue Velvet was set near the Alamo. Continue reading »

Dec 132013
 

Fifty years ago, a covers album wasn’t called a “covers album.” It was called an album. Full stop.

Frank Sinatra, Elvis, Billie Holiday – most albums anyone bought were “covers albums” as we’d think of them today, but that’s not how folks thought of them then. Once the public began putting a premium on singers writing their own songs in the ’60s the concept of course shifted, so that an artist doing a covers album has to be like Michael Jordan playing baseball – an okay diversion but let’s get back to the main event please.

More so this year than ever before though, that pendulum seems to be swinging back in small but meaningful ways to what an album originally meant. More and more artists are releasing LPs saying, this is not my new quote-on-quote “covers album,” this is my new album (that happens to consist of covers). The attitude showcases a confidence and surety of purpose that shows they take performing other peoples songs every bit as seriously as they do their own.

That holds true for both of our top two covers albums this year, and plenty more sprinkled throughout. Which isn’t to knock anyone doing a covers album as a lark, novelty, tribute, or side project – you’ll see plenty of those here as well – but any blurred lines that put a “covers album” on the same level as a “normal” album have to be a good thing.

Start our countdown on Page 2…

Aug 212013
 

In the Spotlight showcases a cross-section of an artist’s cover work. View past installments, then post suggestions for future picks in the comments!

Next month, the Primitives will release the 25th anniversary edition of Lovely, their debut album; it’s a quarter century old, but its sound is deathless. While the band may be best known for Lovely‘s leadoff track “Crash,” their sound combined Blondie and the Jesus and Mary Chain in a way that resounded with fans far longer and deeper than one song could ever account for. As for the Primitives themselves, they disbanded in the early ’90s, but twenty years later got back together to release Echoes & Rhythms, a cover album that pulls off the rare trick of showing them to be just as vibrant and relevant as they ever were.
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Mar 232013
 

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!

Ric Ocasek, who turns 64 today, may be best remembered for buzzing around in the “You Might Think” video, but between 1978 and 1988 he led the Cars to FM radio immortality with a string of successful singles and albums (and two quality solo albums to boot). After the Cars folded, Ocasek’s skills as a producer became much in demand, and he stood behind the glass for bands such as Bad Brains, No Doubt, Nada Surf, and Weezer’s multi-platinum Blue and Green Albums. In both musician and producer roles, Ocasek’s influence has proven huge and lasting; bands such as The Strokes, Weezer, Fountains of Wayne, and even Nirvana owe Ocasek debts of gratitude for his style and sound, melding ‘50s rockabilly to ‘70s new wave with ‘80s rock and pop sensibilities. Continue reading »