Jan 232018
 

review dr demento covered in punkLet’s be blunt: No one needs novelty songs.

Loosely defined as “a satirical or comedic parody of popular music,” most people instinctively leave the room – or the house – at the first whiff.

Or do they? What, then, explains the enduring popularity of Dr. Demento, querulous-voiced prankster and legitimate, if puzzling, cultural icon? A rock ’n roll writer, label A&R man, and sometime roadie, he began broadcasting a rock and oldies show at Pasadena station KPPC in 1970. He quickly found that the novelty songs he slipped in – notably Nervous Norvus’ “Transfusion,” a truly demented tale about reckless driving, and a precursor to the Cramps’ psychobilly – were what his listeners really wanted to hear.

Now 76, Dr. Demento – a.k.a. Barret Eugene Hansen – ceased terrestrial radio broadcast in 2010, though his program persists online. And now we’re treated to Dr. Demento Covered in Punk, by some counts his 15th official album release. If you’re already hooked on the good doctor’s offbeat charms, you’re likely not in need of encouragement to purchase this collection of supposedly “punk” covers (more on that later) interspersed with the Doctor’s commentary. But can we rightfully recommend this 2+ hour compilation to the rest of the record-buying public? The answer, surprisingly, is: “Yes!” Sort of.

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Oct 092017
 
american girl covers

On Friday, we rounded up the best Tom Petty covers to come since his passing. And today, we begin to dig deeper into the archives for a series of Petty tributes featuring older covers.

Petty tended to write songs more crisp and economical than many of his peers – no Dylanesque word salad or proggy flights of weird instrumentation – which lent themselves to abundant covers. You could play any number of Petty songs within a few months of picking up a guitar (being able to solo like Mike Campbell – well, that might take a little longer).

There are many amazing Petty deep cuts to mine. Why, just in the past year we’ve heard two fantastic covers of songs from his obscure 2006 solo album Highway Companion (by Jane Kramer and The National). But we figured we’d start with a classic, a song so obvious I was frankly surprised to dig through the archives and discover we hadn’t given it the Five Good Covers treatment years ago. Well, better late than never. Rest in peace, Tom. Continue reading »

Sep 302016
 
Fugees

They say nostalgia works in 20-year cycles, and this year the music of 1996 has been in the media a lot. And if you believe the music blogs, it turns out 1996 was a truly groundbreaking year for every possible genre. Over at SPIN: “The 96 Best Alternative Rock Songs Of 1996.” Complex: “Best Rap Songs of 1996.” Junkee: “Ten reasons 1996 was a great year for dance music”. Loudwire: “10 Best Metal Albums of 1996.” Red Bull Music: “1996: Why it was a great year for pop”. Suck it, 1995! (Kidding; similar articles were of course written last year too.)

We’ll be honest: 1996 was not some magical, pioneering year for cover songs. It was also not a terrible year. It was just, you know, another year. There’s no overarching theorem of 1996’s cover songs that wasn’t true in ’95 or ’97. But even so, Cover Me wasn’t around in 1996, so we never made a Best Cover Songs of 1996 list (our first year-end list came in 2009, with the Kings of Convenience’s “It’s My Party” topping it, and you can catch up on all the lists here). So we decided, before the year ends and we take our look at the best covers songs this year, why not take a nostalgic rewind and do 1996 just for fun, twenty years too late. Continue reading »

Jan 102014
 

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.

Rasputina are number one in a field of one (unless you know of other steampunk cellist trios), but the territory they carved out for themselves has proven to be a touchstone for any artists who want to marry goth to chamber-pop. Melora Creager is the band’s sole constant, and she and her compatriots have been donning Victorian duds and partying like it’s 1799 for over two decades now.
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Jul 122010
 

Full Albums features covers of every track off a classic album. Got an idea for a future pick? Leave a note in the comments!

Releasing your record with no identifying information whatsoever seems like a truly dumb idea. In the days before the Internet, how would anyone know who was behind it? When Led Zeppelin released their untitled/self-titled/titled-with-symbols fourth record, Atlantic Records called it “professional suicide.” Apparently 37 million people disagreed. It spawned enduring classics “Black Dog,” “Rock and Roll,” and of course the Wayne’s World-despised “Stairway to Heaven.”

Zeppelin covers can be tricky, since many artists try to mimic Jimmy Page’s every note (and, naturally, fail). For that reason only one of the covers below would even count as rock. Otherwise, there’s gothic cello, Cuban salsa, and – why not – another dose of Tuvan throat singing.
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Tom Petty

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Nov 302009
 

Petty’s back, baby! His career resurgence began with his Super Bowl Halftime slot in ’08 (and history has already forgotten that he was purportedly the NFL’s second choice, after Bruce Springsteen), continued with sell-out summer shed tours, and has recently hit a new peak when his four-disc Live Anthology dropped last week to a combination of critical acclaim and some why-don’t-more-artists-do-this speculation. The quirkiest Petty honor has to be the Courteney Cox show Cougar Town though, where each episode is named after a Petty song. Is the producer just a fan, or has Tom Petty become “Official Music of Cougars”?


Melora Creager – American Girl
One of the best covers I’ve ever heard. Period. The cello-goth Rasputina frontwoman wails the darkest minor-key duet you’ve ever heard. Rasputina have an entire cover album themselves, The Lost & Found, that is to die for. Literally? [Buy]

Johnny Cash – I Won’t Back Down
As Johnny Cash began recording 2000’s American III: Solitary Man, he began getting sick. He had been forced to stop touring due to a variety of ailments and he would never fully recover. This election-season staple thus takes on a whole new meaning from country’s most resilient badass. Petty himself chimes in on vocals and organ here (he had previously backed Cash on the entirety of Unchained [American II]). [Buy]

Allred – Free Fallin’
A bearded Petty played this one in his 2008 Super Bowl Halftime Show set (in fact, the first three songs I’ve posted are 3/4 of his Super Bowl set list). Watch the whole thing here and marvel at the sweet guitar/heart stage. Petty played four songs with the Heartbreakers, but all except for “American Girl” originally appeared on his solo albums. Irony. [Buy]

Mobius Band – You Don’t Know How It Feels
The lead single from 1994’s Heartbreaker-less Wildflowers, “You Don’t Know How It Feels” featured the controversial line “let’s roll another joint.” Yes, those were simpler times. However, reactionary consumerism being what it is, MTV reversed the word “joint” for the music video. [Buy]

John Dissed – Even the Losers
Dissed produced a top-notch cover of T.Rex’s “Bang a Gong (Get In On)” for our Cover Commissions last month. Check that out on this page if you haven’t already. Then come back here and listen to his take on Petty. [Buy]

Taking Back Sunday – You Wreck Me
Warner Bros. produced Covered, a Revolution in Sound to celebrate its fiftieth anniversary with classic Warner songs covered by younger WB artists. The Flaming Lips do Madonna, The Black Keys do Captain Beefheart, and Taking does Tom. [Buy]

Mark Erelli w/ Jeffrey Foucault – Alright For Now
This one originally appeared on Full Moon Fever, Petty’s first solo album. “Free Fallin’” and “I Won’t Back Down” come off there too. He couldn’t match these sensitive-guys duets. [Buy]

Matthew Sweet and Susanna Hoffs – Here Comes My Girl
Another duet here, with the rare female voice appearing in a Petty cover. This comes from Sweet & Hoffs’ recent Under the Covers Vol. 2. Well worth a listen. I always think of this song as a companion piece to Pixies’ “Here Comes Your Man.” [Buy]

Wilco – Something In the Air (Thunderclap Newman)
A lot of people thing this was originally by Petty, but in face they just covered a 1969 song for their 1993 Greatest Hits album. Wilco played Madison Square Garden on New Year’s Eve ’04 and once the ball dropped they went into an epic cover marathon. Judas Priest, Captain and Tennille, Bob Dylan, this, Randy Newman, Blue Öyster Cult and Devo. Epic. [Buy]

Setting Sun – You Got Lucky
Tom gets the spacey synth treatment here from the free second volume of the Buffetlibre compilation (downloadable here). It would all be a little much without the hauntingly distant voices. [Buy]