Apr 032020
 

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.

Joe Pernice

If Joe Pernice flies below the radar, it’s seemingly with a bit of pride, or blithe indifference. Consider the title of his live concert DVD: “Nobody’s Watching/Nobody’s Listening.” That didn’t come from a branding consultant.

He’s released 17 recordings over the years, but all under different monikers. The Scud Mountain Boys, Pernice Brothers, Chappaquiddick Skyline, Roger Lion, and The New Mendicants, to name a few. He’s even recorded and performed as Joe Pernice on occasion. A restless artist unconcerned with continuity, he’ll disband a band only to reform it decades later. He’s been known to ditch a completed album at the final mixing phase. And now and then Pernice falls into radio silence: during those stretches he is writing poetry, fiction, and (to pay bills) tv cop show scripts. However an artist gets on the radar in the music biz, this is not the recommended flight path.

Nothing changes the fact that Pernice is a top-notch singer and composer. When it comes to covers, his choices are inspired. They appear quirky at first, or even jokey in some cases. But then you listen, getting drawn in by Pernice’s plaintive voice. You then get stirred, you find new admiration for a song that you had condescended to or shrugged off. The song needed the Pernice treatment to get through.

See for yourself. Here’s a half-dozen choice covers from a quarter-century worth of Joe Pernice output. Add them to a playlist and name it “Somebody’s Watching/Somebody’s Listening.” Continue reading »

Jun 042018
 

In Pick Five, great artists pick five cover songs that matter to them.

lou barlow cover songs

Lou Barlow broke his collarbone.

That’s the sort of thing that would slow down most musicians, but not Barlow. He kept right on touring the UK with Dinosaur Jr. after the mishap this spring, posting a celebratory video when he made it the whole way through without the metal pin popping out. Now he’s about to embark on a June solo tour; hopefully the pin will stay in for that too. In April, he even released a new 7″ with a photo of him in the hospital on the cover. Watch the self-directed video for “Love Intervene”:

In the middle of all that touring and healing, he took some time out to tell us about his favorite cover songs. As anyone who’s followed his career with Sebadoh and Dinosaur Jr. will not be surprised to learn, he knows his stuff. From alt-rock peers like Mudhoney to more-unexpected personal favorites (an Ace Frehley solo cut?), Barlow digs deep. And, never one to do the bare minimum, he picked six cover songs for his Pick Five. We just hope he didn’t have to use his collarbone to write ’em. Continue reading »

Sep 282016
 
Lou_Barlow-by_Rachel_Enneking-5-cropped

Lou Barlow (Dinosaur Jr, Sebadoh)’s new cover of Peter Gabriel’s “In Your Eyes” has a number of knocks against it. His description doesn’t exactly sell it: “i was asked to record a version of this tune awhile back..nothing came of it..thought i’d put up here.” It’s accompanied by shaky iPhone video of his kids. And instead of being played on John Cusack’s boombox, it sounds like it was recorded into that boombox.

But despite all that, Barlow delivers a beautiful acoustic version that rescues the song from the cliche it has sometimes become. Accompanying himself on acoustic guitar with maybe a mandolin accompanying him (hard to tell given the audio), what at first appears to be a tossed-off lark actually turns into a moving and compellingly beautiful performance. And his kid’s cute too. Listen below. Continue reading »

Jun 262014
 

1994. A brilliant year for music. In my native UK, we heard the first rumblings of Britpop with the release of Oasis’s ‘Live Forever’, ‘Parklife’ by Blur and Primal Scream’s ‘Rocks’. Stateside, Green Day released their classic ‘Dookie’, Johnny Cash had his his renaissance with his first Rick-Rubin produced album, and Outkast unleashed their debut. Continue reading »