May 232014
 

Some covers are more equal than others. Good, Better, Best looks at three covers and decides who takes home the gold, the silver, and the bronze.

 
Tim Buckley first debuted “Song to the Siren” on the final episode of The Monkees, and as a folk song, it was lovely and approachable. Then he refused to record it for three years – the line “I’m as puzzled as the oyster” had drawn mocking, and Buckley felt the song too flawed to release, which meant Pat Boone, of all people, was the first to issue it on vinyl. When Buckley finally followed suit, on 1970’s Starsailor, he revealed a changed song (and not just the switch from “oyster” to “newborn child”). If the original take was a quiet den, here was a cavernous ballroom with crumbling pillars, as Buckley’s exotic, five-octave voice stretched through otherworldly echoes, with nothing to hold it up and nothing to hold it back.
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Dec 082010
 

On her second release, singer/songwriter/pianist Diane Birch unites with neo-soul outfit The Phenomenal Handclap Band for The Velveteen Age, a seven-track cover collection of dark eighties/early nineties cult hits. Album cover aside, however, little here suggests the tunes’ stygian origins. Exuberance, not melancholy, is the dominant atmosphere.

To say Diane Birch and The Phenomenal Handclap Band reimagine gothic rock as pop would be misleading. Classics of the genre like the Sisters of Mercy’s “This Corrosion” and Siouxsie and the Banshees’ “Kiss Them for Me” were rousing pop songs from the start. Rather, Diane Birch and The Phenomenal Handclap Band reimagine these songs as seventies pop, complete with Motown and doo-wop flourishes. On “This Corrosion,” Sisters’ singer Andrew Eldritch self-consciously refers to his outsider rock as “selling the don’t belong.” By giving the dark side of the eighties/early nineties a retro feel, Diane Birch and The Phenomenal Handclap Band repackage that same “don’t belong” for a new audience. Continue reading »