Sep 012021

“Covering the Hits” looks at covers of a randomly-selected #1 hit from the past sixty-odd years.

the reflex covers

“The Reflex” was Duran Duran’s first single to top the American charts, in 1984, and remains one of their most-streamed tracks on Spotify. Despite all that, though, it hasn’t generated as many covers as you’d think. Covers database SecondHandSongs lists almost three times as many covers of “Hungry Like the Wolf.” And “Ordinary World.” And “A View to a Kill.” Continue reading »

Oct 182010

It’s an especially hot fall weekend in Chicago, and scads of punk bands have migrated to a few of the city’s top venues for weekend residencies. The reason? Riot Fest. Now in its sixth year, this midwest mainstay has assembled perhaps its biggest lineup yet. The weekend will see performances from keystones of the punk rock world like Bad Religion, the Mighty Mighty Bosstones, Jello Biafra, and dozens more. Among those taking the stage: Less Than Jake, whose performance coincides with the release of their latest album, a cover record of songs from the boob tube called TV/EP (read my review).

I sat down with band front-man and guitarist Chris Demakes on the afternoon of  Less Than Jake’s Riot Fest performance, at which they would debut several tracks off TV/EP. We took shelter in the ultra-swanky Red Bull Scenic Cruiser parked in front of the historic Congress Theater, which the band would later rock. Chris  took a few minutes post-sound check to talk with me about commercials, Grease, Cheap Trick, and standing tall on the wings of one’s dreams. Continue reading »

Oct 112010

The annals of punk rock history will surely remember Less Than Jake’s TV/EP as a novelty record, but in this case I want to employ the word “novelty” in a totally positive sense. Though TV/EP isn’t the first time that punk versions of TV themes have been turned into an album, it is the first time I can think of that a project of that nature has been undertaken with such variety and energy.

TV/EP consists of 16 songs and clocks in at a breathless 11:23; the longest song (the Laverne & Shirley theme) runs 1:15 while the shortest (the Kit Kat jingle) takes up a mere 11 seconds. Yet somehow, and bear with me here, Less Than Jake takes us on a journey in those 11 minutes. It could be the fact that the songs on this album make up a single, unbroken wall of sound—instead of silence between tracks, there’s TV static and the sound of a remote clicking, which almost…almost…create the feeling of a concept album. But the real reason I think this “novelty” album feels so fresh and complete is that it basically covers all of television history. Continue reading »