Last summer, jazz trio Bad Bad Not Good showed the world another side of the depth and darkness of the music of Tyler the Creator and Odd Future Wolf Gang Kill Them All with their Goblin medley. Now, the guys have returned with a new mixtape that attacks on all genre fronts.
My Bloody Valentine. Acoustic. It’s hard to hold those two concepts in your brain at the same time; the shoegaze pioneers’ 1991 opus, Loveless, is so fuzzy with distorted guitars that it’s hard to even hear lyrics. Yet, somehow, Cat’s Eyes, the side project of The Horrors’ Faris Badwan and multi-instrumentalist Rachel Zeffira, have combined the two for an art performance tonight in London.
Alabama band Quality Strangers didn’t exist a few months ago. At least, not on the Internet they didn’t. Since they appeared on Bandcamp at the end of June, though, they’ve already released two albums and an EP. That’s either an impressive pace or the mark of a group that’s been holding out on us. They list among their influences My Bloody Valentine, Godspeed You! Black Emperor, and heterosexuality, which give you an idea where they’re coming from (well, maybe not that last one).
Ohio indie rockers Lovedrug have recently released a slew of cover songs to preface their new album Best of I AM LOVEDRUG. The album will feature a wide range of covers of the likes of Third Eye Blind, Fleetwood Mac, Def Leppard and then some. Check out a few preview tracks.
A band has to be either quite confident in their credibility or have an uncanny ability to laugh at themselves to take on a song by Darren Hayes, Savage Garden frontman. When it comes to a Savage Garden cover there’s only one direction a band can take it: up, and that is where Lovedrug goes with it. They take it up into the clouds and far beyond what one might consider the realm of possibility when it came to this song. Lovedrug unmasked the potential in “Insatiable” and managed to distort it into a techno-indie song with ironic panache.
My Bloody Valentine’s “When You Sleep” is a beautiful, shimmering example of shoegaze. Heavy on distorted guitars, co-ed vocals, and just generally sweeping beauty, it is a lovely little pop song that so many shoegaze bands of today try to emulate without success. It’s probably smart, then, that Memoryhouse didn’t try to imitate it when they covered it for Yours Truly. Instead, they adapted it to their own style, consistent with gems of theirs like “Lately” and “Minor White.” It takes the heavily distorted guitar riff from the original and turns it into a beautiful piano ballad.
Memoryhouse also slow down the tempo considerably. The guitar still makes an entrance, but serves as the rhythm section while Denise Nouvion’s dreamy vocals float perfectly on top. Its dreamy, hazy feel may be in line with the original, but not much else is, and that’s just fine. Check out the video below.
Edit 10/15: MP3 download added below.
I’ve heard a lot of covers, but every now and then a song comes along so bizarre I think, no way anyone could cover that. In every case, I turn out to be wrong. It seems musicians can take even the strangest, most idiosyncratic music and remake it in their own image. Let me present…the (not quite) uncoverable.
Neil Cowley Trio – Revolution 9 (The Beatles)
The ultimate in uncoverable (well, after Metal Machine Music…which, incidentally, an orchestra covered). The original is just random noise with some idiot saying “number nine” incessantly. When MOJO wanted to put together covers of all tracks on the White Album, I would have thought they’d given up upon remembering ol’ #9. But no, they persevered, and came up with a funky jazz cover that, unlike the original, doesn’t sound like ass. [Buy]
Alan Licht – Lonesome Valley (Trad.)
The tag says “Trad,” but there’s a lot more to the story. Licht, of avant-garde free-jazz groups like Lovechild and The Blue Humans, describes the history of this track: “Run On’s David Newgarden had played me a CD of hollerin’ contests from North Carolina, so I went about coming up with chord progressions to play behind the recordings of the weird a cappella, howling melodies.” Hollerin’ is a lost art of yelling, communicating messages in wordless yelps. It’s bizarre stuff, and can be explained better here. [Buy]
James Eric – Untitled #1 (Vaka) (Sigur Rós)
The music of angels, Sigur Rós has a sound all their own. Airy, spacey songs that float by sung either in Icelandic or a made-up language (for most of us there’s little difference), their music is entrancing, enticing, and as idiosyncratic as can be. Shockingly, however, there are a few Sigur covers out there, all quite good. I chose this one because (spoiler alert) you can expect to see more of Mr. Eric here in the very near future. [Buy]
Vienna Teng – Idioteque (Radiohead)
Radiohead is a commonly covered band, but some songs lend themselves better to covers than others. The original for this “tune” features such an idiosyncratic drum loop one wonders how to reinvent it. Teng hints at the pattern, but brings out the melody as a folksy tune with (gasp) harmonies! [Buy]
Violent Femmes – Step Right Up (Tom Waits)
Quite a few Tom songs could fit in this uncoverable category, but this tuneless huckster bark goes right up there. Tom’s six-minute infomercial for dozens of questionable products, “Step Right Up” find the Femmes adding in some more free-jazz background and bizarre vocal contortions to sell you their shit. Don’t be caught with your drawers down! [Buy]
Patti Smith – Smells Like Teen Spirit (Nirvana)
“What’s this doing here?” you’re wondering. “It’s one of the most easy-to-cover rock songs there is because of that damn riff.” It’s true; the riff puts it just after “Smoke on the Water” as a popular hook to inspire teens everywhere to pick up an axe. The vocals come second; you know the riff, you can play the song. Smith does the unthinkable though, putting out a version of the tune without the riff! The fact there even is a song without the riff is the real shock, much less that it’s such a good one. [Buy]
Mersault – Westward Ho (Moondog)
There are some unusual stories in music, but it doesn’t get much more bizarre than Moondog. Where to begin? For one, he was a homeless guy. Who only wore homemade clothes. That he designed to look like the Norse god Thor. Including a horned helmet. The strangest thing of all though, was that this “Viking of 6th Avenue” produced gorgeous off-kilter melodies, largely using his own invented instruments. Needless to say, not an artist you’d expect to find a lot of covers of, especially of a song that only has one line. [Buy]
Jars of Clay – Jesus’ Blood Never Failed Me Yet (Gavin Bryars)
Ina little mini-theme here, this is the second recording of a homeless guy. Bryars heard a recording of an anonymous tramp singing a two-line testimonial to his face, and turned it into one of the most gorgeous pieces I’ve ever heard, adding strings, brass and, later, Tom Waits to come up with 74 minutes of sweeping beauty, all built around the tramp’s sixteen words. Well-regarded Christian rock group Jars of Clay took those few lines and added their acoustic harmonies to bring the simple melody to a new generation. [Buy]
The Antlers – When You Sleep (My Bloody Valentine)
Influential though they are, My Bloody Valentine’s shoegaze noisescapes seem so idiosyncratic one wonders how anyone could translate them. Pickin’ on MBV: The Bluegrass Tribute seems a stretch. The Antlers get it right though, keeping the waves of reverb right up front. [Buy]
Bruce Springsteen – Dream Baby Dream (Suicide)
When Springsteen abruptly began closing his 2005 solo concerts with this obscure cover, fan reaction was understandably mixed. The song only has two lines, repeated over an over to an organ loop for as long as thirteen minutes. Hypnotic and haunting, Bruce probably just couldn’t get the melody out of his head, and neither will you. [Buy]