Mar 032017
 

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!

robyn

There are people out there whose time in college was accompanied by a Robyn Hitchcock soundtrack. Back in the ’80s, when alternative/indie music was known as “college rock,” Hitchcock and his off-off-kilter music figured prominently. Those people who loved “Balloon Man” and “My Wife and My Dead Wife” would in all likelihood react very badly to the idea that the surrealist scamp who wrote those songs turns 64 years old today. If it’s any consolation, his songs, both solo and in collaboration with the Soft Boys and the Egyptians, remain as timeless and vital as ever.
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Jan 252017
 
protest cover songs

Well, it has been quite a week in politics. President Trump got sworn in Friday, then on Saturday hundreds of thousands of protesters marched across the country. We don’t need to go into the many (many) controversies and debates the first few days of the Trump administration have already brought us. You know them, and that’s not really our beat anyway.

What is our beat is cover songs, and a whole lot of politically-minded covers came out in the past week. Some are explicitly covers of songs with political lyrics, like Neko Case, kd lang, and Laura Veirs covering Patti Smith’s “People Have the Power” and OK Go covering Morrissey’s “Interesting Drug” (opening lines: “There are some bad people on the rise / They’re saving their own skins by ruining other people’s lives”).

Other covers are only political in the sense that they were released to raise money for groups like the American Civil Liberties Union or Planned Parenthood. Barsuk Records put out a covers comp featuring Nada Surf, David Bazan, Mates of State, The Long Winters (wonderfully titled Sad!). Members of the Philadelphia punk scene came together for a 35-song set of covers by the likes of Laura Stevenson and Jeff Rosenstock, which range from the covers of political artists like Against Me! and Bikini Kill to a cover of the Beatles’ “I’m Only Sleeping,” which would be difficult to find a political take on. Continue reading »

Sep 302014
 

The Squidbillies, an animated show on Adult Swim about mud squids living in Appalachia, has a special twist for its fans this season. The eighth season, which started on September 21, featured the show’s traditional theme song covered by Neko Case. Case is just the first of several musicians – including Todd Rundgren, King Khan and the Shrines, Centro-Matic, Dwight Yoakam, and Milk Carton Kids – that will be covering the theme for this season. Continue reading »

Jul 232013
 

Cover Classics takes a closer look at all-cover albums of the past, their genesis, and their legacy.

One of the greatest American movies, Nashville uses the microcosm of Music City to capture the country’s zeitgeist like it had never been captured before. With an ensemble of twenty-four characters and a running time over two and a half hours, Nashville‘s scope is enormous, but necessary; five days in a post-Vietnam, post-Watergate, pre-Bicentennial nation makes for a lot of story. It also makes for a lot of songs; more than an hour of the movie consists of music, most of it written by the movie stars themselves. Nashvillagers didn’t take too kindly to the movie or the songs, but they both had and have a healthy cult following, especially among alt-country singers – one of whom decided to make something more from them.
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May 282013
 

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

Jane Wiedlin co-wrote “Our Lips Are Sealed” and brought it to her band, the Go-Go’s; their version was sunny and buoyant, a nascent form of girl power that served as their first single and heralded their classic debut album, Beauty and the Beat. Terry Hall co-wrote “Our Lips Are Sealed” and brought it to his band, the Fun Boy Three; their version was moody and dark, a top-ten dose of paranoia that served as their next to last single and heralded the end of their too-short career.
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Oct 192011
 

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

The closing track of Bob Dylan‘s (greatest?) album Blood on the Tracks, “Buckets of Rain” has little of the invective that colored other songs on the album; it’s a long way from the “idiot babe” in “Idiot Wind” to the “honey baby” found here. Dylan’s saddened, but he’s also very tender to the one he’s addressing. They’ve swept up the ashes of their relationship, and now they’re looking at each other with rueful smiles, permitting themselves to feel both the love they still have and the pain it still brings. It’s no fun, but they do what they must do, and they do it well. Continue reading »