Nine Inch Nails

 Posted by at 9:03 pm  No Responses »
Sep 222009

Strange but true: I liked Trent Reznor before I liked Nine Inch Nails. Every article you read situates him as the pinnacle of a new-media artist. An internet whore in the best way possible, he gave away his last album for free, tweeted actually interesting content until belligerent fans jealous of his new marriage made him quit and, gracious pioneer that he is, posted a lengthy how-to for new bands to become successful on his fan forum. It seems strange, but the embodiment of early ‘90s fury seems to be a genuinely good guy.

I didn’t think much of his music though until, on the recommendation of a friend, I went to a Nine Inch Nails concert on their audio-visual explosion known as the Lights in the Sky tour (review here). After seeing him surrounded by mesh screens shifting between transparent and opaque, commanding an army of ace players including old crony Robin Finck, conversion came easy. NIN just played their last live show a few weeks back, so to honor their legacy, let the covers begin.

Johnny Cash – Hurt
We’ll get the obvious out of the way first. This cover is arguably more widely known than the original (plus it’s referenced in our logo above). By way of comparison, the leading video of NIN performing this has 1.7 million views on YouTube. The Cash version? 22 mil. Reznor was right when he said about hearing the cover for the first time, “[I felt like] I just lost my girlfriend, because that song isn’t mine anymore.” [Buy]

Lady Dead Life Urban Sky – Piggy
A gothic NIN cover doesn’t seem like much of a stretch, but these dark crooners truly create something new, slowing the Downward Spiral classic down with cello and world-weary anger that fits the sound perfectly. Bonus points for the chick singer’s sultry croon seducing despite the rage. [Buy]

The Pluto Tapes – Reptile
From the first brushed drum stroke, this one will make you sit up and take stock. It seems so perfect in this subtle acoustic take that it’s hard to even remember how aggressive the original is. [Buy]

Nine Inch Richards – Closer
A barnyard country version of one of Reznor’s most sexually aggressive songs? It’s just as strange as it sounds – they actually call it “Closer to Hogs” – and is certainly meant as a joke from the horny-farmer asides and classic-rock quotes. It sort of works though, in a completely insincere way. “Did I tell you I knew Lassie personally?” [Buy]

Devo – Head Like a Hole
I can never quite decide whether Devo are some of the best cover artists around or some of the worst. They certainly take an interesting approach – remember their “Satisfaction”? They replace most of the angst with danceable synths, but keep a bit of the original flavor for the chorus. [Buy]

Scala & Kolacny Brothers – Underneath It All
We first heard from this Belgian choir a few weeks back in our Choral Covers feature. Well this female-fronted lament oozes sorrow with no need for crunchy guitars or spastic programming. [Buy]

Tiga – Down In It
This one seems like it’d be great fun to dance to if it was about three times as fast. As it stands, it’s a slow electro rattle, the pretty-boy voice offset by the cracking snare shots. [Buy]

Mae – March of the Pigs
Christian light-rockers Mae seem like a strange choice to cover NIN, but they unleash all their inner anger here on the Punk Goes 90s comp. [Buy]

Jennifer Hope – Terrible Lie
This one comes off the Gothic Tribute to Nine Inch Nails tribute disc, but is as much late-era Beatles as it is Marilyn Manson. Sitar and strings waver in and out, but Hope’s voice is really all you need. [Buy]

Ark Sano – The Day the World Went Away
Piano player extraordinaire Sano has a whole disc of NIN covers that you won’t believe. The dark anti-chords and angry phrasing translate beautifully into pounding bass or brooding tinkling. Seek out “The Downward Spiral” cover as well to hear him strum the inside of the piano and pound its wooden sides. [Buy]

Hairy Palms

 Posted by at 4:09 pm  No Responses »
Apr 142009

So there are a lot of songs about masturbation. Let’s just leave the introduction at that.

Warren Zevon – Dancing With Myself (Billy Idol)
Why in 1992, eleven years aft er the song’s double popularity as hit singles from Idol’s original group Generation X (shortened to Gen X for this record) and as a solo cut, Zevon decided to bust out his one-man acoustic cover live is beyond me. But I’m glad he did. One can only wonder if he danced while singing it (the literal sort of dancing I mean). For a more unintentionally disturbing version, check out Gonzo singing about it on Muppets Tonight. Yikes. [Buy]

Byron Lee and the Dragonaires – My Ding-a-Ling (Chuck Berry)
The fact that this was Chuck Berry’s only number one hit – in 1972 no less – should be a source of shame to music fans everywhere. Still, the rock legend may have pioneered the musical-instrument-as-penis metaphor that lead to “Bang on the Drum All Day” and the Dylan song below. This horn-fueled reggae take livens it up that you can ignore the inane lyrics. [Buy]

Claw Hammer – Praying Hands (Devo)
This one is basically an instruction manual on technique, proclaiming Devo’s renowned class for the world to hear. Equally tasteful, Claw Hammer breaks it down into loose garage rock when they cover the full album Q: Are We Not Men? A: We Are Devo. [Buy]

Scala & Kolacny Brothers – I Touch Myself (The Divynals)
Now this song has never been particularly subtle, but somehow when a full female choir sings it together it becomes extra creepy. Like Renee Fleming telling you way more than you wanted to know. [Buy]

David Bowie – Pictures of Lily (The Who)
Townsend claims he wrote this because he wanted to see a song about masturbation become a hit. Well he succeeded, immortalizing British actress Lillie Langtry in a somewhat twisted way. She did indeed die in 1929, as the song says, and one wonders how the “Jersey Lily” would respond to her most famous legacy. [Buy]

Liz Phair – Turning Japanese (The Vapors)
All of these songs are more or less gross, but in 1980 the Vapors took things one step further by adding racial sensitivity to the mix. I won’t go into the details about how turning Japanese relates to masturbation, but it’s gross. Like many masturbatory groups, they deny the charges, saying that “Turning Japanese is all the clichés about angst and youth and turning into something you didn’t expect to.” Well, that’s probably not why Liz Phair, singer of the classics “Blowjob Queen” and “H.W.C.” (look up what it stands for) chose to cover it. [Buy]

Jason and the Scorchers – Absolutely Sweet Marie (Bob Dylan)
Living up to their name, this cowbilly punk crew scorches through this Blonde on Blonde classic. Though this is Bob at his most lyrically inscrutable, some metaphors are clear. “I’m just sitting here beating on my trumpet” = best euphemism ever. [Buy]

Eden Automatic – She Bop (Cyndi Lauper)
Time for the ladies to have a say. Eden Automatic gives a surf-rock swagger to Cyndi’s pleasure-proud hit, precluding Britney Spears’ “Touch of My Hand” by several decades. Bonus: You can download Eden’s full album for free over at Aimestreet. [Buy]

The Raconteurs – Teenage Kicks (The Undertones)
Alright, now here’s where I draw the line. Everyone says this songs about masturbation, but I don’t see it. The Raconteurs do such a kick-ass version though I’ll let you decide for yourself. [Buy]

Paddy Milner – Blister in the Sun (Violent Femmes)
To tide you off before the Femmes-themed post I hope to do soon, here’s a jaunty piano-backed take on their biggest (or only) hit. Milner bounces around the keys with strange cadences and notes, backing his more conventional voice. Very Femme. [Buy]