Nov 302010
 

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!

It’s hard to imagine the 1980s music scene without Billy Idol. Just as MTV gained a foothold in the collective consciousness, along came a punk-rock James Dean, all bleach-blonde spikes and hundred-mile snarl. Sure, he’d gained some renown in Generation X and, briefly, Siouxsie and the Banshees, but it wasn’t ‘til “White Wedding” hit television screens in 1982 that Idol catapulted to superstar status. The black latex, gothic cathedral, and weird doctor/necromancer enraptured kids and enraged their parents. No one unwraps a headscarf quite like Billy Idol.

His star may have sunk a little – that holiday album didn’t help – but for a full decade no one bettered Billy Idol. For an artist so tied to his time, though, the songs have aged surprisingly well. So today we celebrate Billy’s 55th with five covers of his hits: Continue reading »

Oct 212010
 

Song of the Day posts one cool cover every morning. Catch up on past installments here.

Diversity in music is overrated. Sure, a group with a few tools in their tool belt bears some advantages, but you don’t need a bunch of screwdrivers and socket wrenches if you can use one tool really, really well. When you’re a Finnish symphonic-metal group that does covers of popular songs, that tool is a hammer. Of Thor.

The group behind the hammer in question, Northern Kings, released “We Don’t Need Another Hero (Thunderdome)” as their first single in 2007. Their fists-to-the-heavens video stars Juha-Pekka Leppäluoto’s incredible forked beard in some sort of Dante’s Inferno/killer carnival scenario. Is it a joke? Probably. Is it awesome? Absolutely. Continue reading »

Going Goth

 Posted by at 3:14 pm  No Responses »
Sep 182008
 

On a whim I went to a goth-cello concert a few weeks back because it sounded unique. Rasputina is just that, dueling cellos with an aggressive percussionist who plays songs with titles like “1816, The Year Without a Summer” and “Desert Vampire.” A couple amazing covers they did during their show, one of which is below, inspired a little gothic cover action. So light some candles, put on your black lipstick, and join me in my lair.

Rasputina – Bad Moon Rising (Creedence Clearwater Revival)
In concert Melora Creager introduced this as a “weather conjurer,” saying she loved the lyrics but thought the original was way too upbeat. Transpose it to a minor key, slow it down a ton, and rock out some grinding cellos, and here you go. If you like this one, bowhowdy over at Cover Lay Down just posted their Pink Floyd cover. Great minds and all that.

Siouxsie and the Banshees – This Wheel’s On Fire (Bob Dylan)
A classic cover, these goth pioneers make the Dylan-Danko apocalypse sound completely natural with shivering synth violins and a pounding drum machine. And that voice…brrr.

Inkubus Sukkubus – Paint It Black (The Rolling Stones)
My sketchy friend somehow discovered this band in high school, with song titles like “Wake of the Christian Knights” and “Vampyre Erotica” (sample lyric: “I’ll beat you / I’ll eat you / I’ll laugh at your torment”). I gotta admit though, I’m a fan, and this tune fits in with the rest perfectly. A little research revealed it’s often covered in the gothic music world. Not hard to see why.

Marilyn Manson – The KKK Took My Baby Away (The Ramones)
One of my favorite Ramones songs, this comes from the hit-or-miss We’re a Happy Family tribute disc. It’s electronic, brooding, and downright disturbing. Manson in fact is an unlikely master of the cover; check out a recent taken on a Justin Timberlake track here.

Ex-Voto – Riders on the Storm (The Doors)
First off, the fact that a Goth Tribute to the Doors exists makes me very happy. Then the fact that it’s called Darken My Fire makes it even better. Many of the songs work quite well in their new, darker arrangements, and I recommend checking it out.

The Northern Kings – Rebel Yell (Billy Idol)
I posted these guys take on Creep a while back, but this might be even better. Loud, long and epic as hell, it builds, then dies, then builds back up bigger than ever. Their all-covers album Reborn is worth picking up.

Bauhaus – Spirit in the Sky (Norman Greenbaum)
Most of the tunes here are accessible goth-pop, but not this one. It’s crunchy, jarring, and all around strange.

Lacrimosa – Phantom of the Opera (Andrew Lloyd Webber)
A gothic take on a gothic song isn’t a stretch, but this dark and shimmery take brings out the ultimate creepiness.

HIM – Solitary Man (Neil Diamond)
These quasi-hitmakers also do a nice version of (Don’t Fear) The Reaper, but this song choice is far more unexpected. Unlike Bad Moon Rising though, the lyrics made far more sense in their original context.

Sisters of Mercy – Jolene (Dolly Parton)
These members of the goth old guard did their own gender-bending version of this song long before Jack White discovered it. It’s a demo, angsty and throbbing.

Radiohead

 Posted by at 11:16 pm  No Responses »
Aug 112008
 

I’m seeing Radiohead on Wednesday night, and that seemed as good an excuse as any for this week’s theme.
EDIT: My review of the concert here.

Easy Star All-Stars – Let Down
From the people who brought you Dub Side of the Moon, it’s Radiodread! You can probably guess the musical genre, but they’re surprisingly adept at bringing the Jamaican flavor to the music, throwing in horns and a big chorus on top of the backbeat guitar.

Jorge Drexler – High and Dry
You may not know the name of this Latin guitar master, but Oscar does. In 2004 his song from The Motorcycle Diaries made him the first person from Uruguay to win an Academy Award. Throw this cover in a film, and I’d vote for a second.

Nickel Creek – Just
Fast-paced bluegrass is what Nickel Creek does, and they do it well.

John Mayer – Kid A
This is Mayer in his acoustic “Your Body Is a Wonderland” guise, not the blues guitar god, but don’t hold that against this simple power-chord ballad.

Northern Kings – Creep
Wikipedia calls them a “Finnish symphonic metal cover band,” following in the footsteps of Lordi but with less elaborate costumes. They do everyone from Lionel Ritchie to Jethro Tull on their album Reborn and here they bring their epic goth to Radiohead. You may well hate it, but for a song that’s been covered a billion times, at least it’s different.

Christopher O’Riley – Arpeggi
A classical pianist, O’Riley has a whole series of Yorke songs in his repertoire, many of which can be downloaded at his website. This is a cover of the early live version of a song that would be revised for In Rainbows as “Weird Fishes / Arpeggi.” O’Riley says he prefers the early version for “the more minimalist/tone generative aspects inherent in the song structure.” Okay.

John Vanderslice – Karma Police
A few years ago Stereogum commissioned covers of every song off OK Computer to celebrate its tenth anniversary. The whole thing is downloadable here (track-by-track notes here), but this off-beat drum machine take is a highlight, with some of the hardest-rocking acoustic guitar you’re likely to hear this side of the D coming in halfway through.

Gnarls Barkley – Reckoner
Cee-Lo’s voice is perfect for this song, which they’ve been doing in their sets as of late. A higher quality source (soundboard) than most others circulating.

KT Tunstall – Fake Plastic Trees
The introspective quiet-but-whiney female thing got real old after Vanessa Carlton and Alanis Morisette in the 90’s, but this song works well in the style.

Gillian Welch – Black Star
Country songwriter Welch makes brings sweet harmonies and guitar work to this one, avoiding any temptation to make it all Nashville honky-tonk.

Sa-Ra – In Limbo
From the electronic-ey tribute album Exit Music: Songs for Radioheads, Sa-Ra brings a funk element to all the synthesizers. More fun in one song than all of Kid A.

Calico Horse – Idioteque
I would have thought this song was uncoverable. I would have been wrong. It sounds perfectly natural in this quiet, drum machine free guise.