Aug 312023
Amanda Palmer and The Righteous Babes — The Last Day of our Acquaintance (Sinéad O’Connor cover)

You’re going to notice a theme here. We have the usual grab-bag included below (see “Best of the Rest”), but, for our featured covers up top, it’s all Sinéad. There were so many wonderful tributes performed, often in concert and always powerful and moving. Many did “Nothing Compares 2 U,” technically a Prince cover but really a Sinéad song now and forever, but others selected from elsewhere in her catalog. Of this one, which just came out Tuesday, Amanda Palmer wrote, “This song means a great deal to me, as does the artist who penned it, along with everything she still stands for.” A portion of the money from sales will be donated to The Irish Women’s Survivor Support Network. Continue reading »

Aug 222023

“Dancing With the Stars” is an international cultural phenomenon. In the UK, where the show originated, it is known as “Strictly Come Dancing”, as it is based on a program called “Come Dancing”. The original show was not a reality pro-am format, but a competition between established couples and teams. It ran for decades into the ’90s. So when The Kinks released “Come Dancing” in the UK in 1982 everyone would know what the song referred to, just from the title. Tireless tourers and Cover Me favorites Less than Jake have now released their version as part of a Dead Formats EP from Pure Noise Records.

The Davies brothers from The Kinks had six older sisters. Ray wrote this song in tribute to them, particularly Rene, who Ray was close to and who gave him his first guitar. She and her sisters “would dress up in their glad rags and their dates would take them out dancing to the local Palais”, often a converted theatre. By the time of the song this culture had disappeared and the Palais themselves were either gone, or had continued their evolution to something else again. Rene, unfortunately, died young, on a dancefloor, so never got to experience being the mother waiting up for her daughters to come home.  Ray Davies has developed the song and concept over the years, and it remains close to his heart.

Less than Jake, here accompanied by their Florida buddies the Sooza Brass Band, immediately up the BPM from the original, raising it into Jive speed from the rather than the mid-tempo of the original. The main purpose here is to get the house dancing, and they succeed.  Less than Jake’s characteristic ska style is very much enhanced by the Sooza Brass line, including a horn break. The tone is less of nostalgia, retrospection and much more of the “here and now,” the title a call to arms, or feet.

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 »