Monday, May 31, 2004

Beauty can be sad.

Let's face it, I'm still drunk from the barbecue I attended earlier and I'm just picking a few covers still on my hard drive after my big "Holy shit, my computer is about to bite it for real this time and I'd better save and delete as much as I can so that I don't have to reboot it every few seconds" freak-out. I'm guessing a new PC will be mine by the end of June and I'll be able to store (and subsequently post) way more songs on a far more regular basis. Until then, this is what you get. Sorry.

  • LR "Universal Heart-Beat" (Juliana Hatfield cover)
    Apparently a group of crazed Juliana Hatfield fans put together a double-disc set of Blake Babies/JH covers and this is one part of the result. Ah, rabid Juliana Hatfield fans ... it doesn't matter how much you suck, I still find you amusing. Speaking of maniacal JH fans and me being amused, I think there should be some hot Juliana slash out there in which she has a threesome with John and Freda after fighting about the order of songs on the set list for an upcoming show. See, the tension would get unbearable and they'd have to release it somehow. That would rule.

  • Arab Strap "You Shook Me All Night Long" (AC/DC cover)
    There's nothing worse than a song about fucking that just isn't sexy at all. Maybe it's the sheer number of college parties populated by mulleted townies at which I've heard this "classic," but I was pretty sure I never needed to hear it again as long as I lived. Now, hearing it in this loud, Scottish brogue, it never sounded so damned sexy, I swear. Maybe it's the High Life talking, but I'm all for it. Perhaps some Arab Strap fanfic in which I suck Aidan Moffet's cock in the recording studio (a la that scene in The Doors) would be more fulfilling than the aforementioned Blake Babies slash. I'd better get on that.
  • Thursday, May 27, 2004

    You just took for granted that I want to skinny-dip.

    It doesn't happen very often, but I'm in an emo/indietronica mood today. It's a mild 75 degrees outside, I just got home from work, I'm a little high, drinking a cool beverage and as relaxed as the gal posing on the beach in Duran Duran's "Rio" video. What better time to think about love, '80s hits and skinny bespectacled boys in thrift-store-found Penguin cardigans and dark denim jeans with the cuffs rolled up?

    If you've been reading my blog a while, you've already met with some of the somber, twee, decidedly emotional covers found on one of the sweetest little out-of-print cover albums out there, Double Agent 1980. (The Softies doing Rick Astley's "Together Forever" and Class doing Bonnie Tyler's "Total Eclipse of the Heart," remember?) Today, I bring you a few more from that wondrous pearl.

  • Class "We Don't Have to Take Our Clothes Off" (Jermaine Stewart cover)
    I was 12 or 13 when this song was popular and a pretty big nerd, and even I thought this song beyond laughable. My friend Julie and I mocked it so incessantly, that "we could dance and party all night and drink some cherry wine" became a part of our everyday vernacular. It was the perfect sarcastic neo-adolescent retort to any inquiry in the "I don't know, what do you wanna do?" genre. I'm considering a renaissance.

  • My Favorite "Modern Love" (David Bowie cover)
    I don't know what to tell you about this. I can't decide whether I love or hate it. The "drums" remind me a little of Boyracer or Space Needle and I like them ... hmmm. What I do know, however, is that you can tell that the bands on this tribute disc really love these songs. They're not doing it just to be clever, and that's refreshing.

  • Tullycraft & The Incredible Force of Junior "Hold Me Now" (Thompson Twins cover)
    When I was 12, I think, my mom and I went to Washington DC for a short vacation. While there, I noticed a poster on a phone pole that said the Thompson Twins were playing that weekend and Missing Persons was opening. I begged my mom to take me. Of course, she kept saying no. In retrospect, I'm glad she did. Attempting to try to explain to my mom the purpose of Dale Bozzio's transparent plastic bra cups is not my idea of a good time.
  • Monday, May 24, 2004

    Here's some stuff.

    I'm at home sick today, so I might as well post some songs while my computer is actually working for a change, yes? I'm sure you'll forgive my fatigue and lack of desire to pontificate on these gems. Right?

  • Paul Gilbert "2 Become 1" (Spice Girls cover)
    Now, I could see a postpunk pop band covering this for humorous effect on a soundtrack or something, but a guitar virtuoso? Not so much. I had no idea how much I was longing to hear a guitar solo in a Spice Girls ballad until now.

  • Tori Amos "'97 Bonnie & Clyde" (Eminem cover)
    Em's version is pretty creepy on its own, but leave it to Tori to make it downright nightmarish.
  • Wednesday, May 19, 2004

    I'm the one who loves you. I'm the one you need.

  • Madder Rose "The Love You Save" (Jackson 5 cover)
    The original "The Love You Save" by the Jackson 5 is one of my favorite songs ever. It makes me so damned happy. Its lyrics are simultaneously both inane and deep (well deep for a very young MJ, anyhow) and its rhythm and pacing are invigorating. The urgency in Michael's voice is palpable. God, they were a great pop outlet. [Insert requisite "too bad Mike's completely twisted now" comment here.]

    Why Madder Rose had to come along and mope up this already perfect song is beyond me. I wanted to like their version, and perhaps convinced myself I did for a while back in 1994 when I bought this single, but now it seems significantly more bland than it did then. Maybe if the vocals were softer, as if Ida were covering it, I'd endorse it with more fervor. Or maybe if the singer didn't sound just so damned bored. When it's on, I find myself sighing exasperatedly and doing that "speed the fuck up already" hand motion in the direction of my speakers. I mean, nothing's more annoying than ennui for ennui's sake.

    All of that said, I have a few friends who absolutely love this version and think it's sweet and poppy and, I suspect, would definitely use it as part of the soundtrack to the movie of their lives. You know the finally-about-to-make-out-with-the-dreamboy-she's-been-chasing-the-whole-movie scene? Yeah. Right there.

  • James Last "Don't Go" (Yazoo/Yaz cover)
    I want to be able to tell you all about the strange phenomenon of James Last and his cover-mad orchestra, but I'm exhausted and must go to bed. Check out this great little bio over at Space Age Pop, and definitely scroll down and click the link you find there to his official site, on which he refers to himself as "The Gentleman of Music." Weird. I thought that was R. Kelly.

    This cover is full of life, but the necessity for it escapes me. And the idea that fans clamor for it? Mind-boggling.

    Still, I like the horns. And picturing middle-aged swingers decked out in rhinestone-encrusted gowns or polyester leisure suits ballroom dancing to it while drinking champagne spritzers and laughing dramatically as if they're having the best time in the world.

    I have many scary visions in my head.
  • Monday, May 17, 2004

    Through the storm, we reach the shore.

  • Bauchklang "With or Without You" (U2 cover)
    I'd be lying—a lot—if I said acapella songs didn't totally freak me out. I find them creepy in a way that I'm sure no one could possibly understand since I don't quite understand it myself. Perhaps some regression hypnotherapy might reveal that as a child I was molested by a barbershop quartet, but that seems highly unlikely. Whatever. All I know is that I look upon acappella covers the same way I look upon shows like Showbiz Moms & Dads, Fear Factor and The Swan: with shock and horror that they exist but simultaneously with the incapacity to turn away from them because I desperately crave to engulf myself in their utter sadness. Subsequently, I then feel better about myself for having survived it.

    Bauchklang bills itself as a "vocal groove project," which of course gives me the creeps, calling to mind the "cool enough to get high, but not cool enough for anything else" brand of ex-band/choral dork—like this guy I vaguely knew in college who wore a pocket protector and who was always trying to get someone to "jam" with him. But, actually—and I can't believe I'm saying this—they seem pretty cool. At least for an avant-garde Austrian vocal group that sounds, in parts, almost like electronica. (Heh. Electronica. Even the mention of it amuses me. It's sooooo '90s.) If I were in Europe and found out Bauchklang were playing, I'd definitely go. Especially if getting high first were an option.

    Still, there's something irksome about it. In fact, I've created this reality in my head in which I'm in Austria as a foreign exchange student and I get really hooked on Bauchklang. All the cool kids in the little Austrian village I'm in are obsessed with Bauchklang. I begin throwing them into all of my conversations simply because I love the guttural sound of it. When I return to the States, I rave to everyone about Bauchklang endlessly. My American friends get sick of it. About a year later, Bauchklang tours the States. I get tickets for me and my friends, convinced that they'd love Bauchklang if only they could see the band's live show. As the show starts and the band begins its introductory "vocal groove project," it dawns on me that I've just brought my hip American friends to the musical equivalent of the Blue Man Group. They immediately ostracize me. I spend years in therapy thereafter, lamenting the demise of my hipster clique. I'm in my mid-40s and I have five cats. When no one else is around, which is almost always, I still sometimes listen to Bauchklang ... and I cry.

    Hahaha. I'm talky tonight. And insane.

    You love it.

    Also: "With or Without You" is lyrically void. If the hooks weren't as sweet and catchy as they are and if Bono's voice didn't sound so damned earnest, it would likely have rivaled "We Built This City" for the No. 1 position on that Blender poll no one—myself included, apparently— can seem to stop talking about.
  • Sunday, May 16, 2004

    Was I surprised? Yeah. Was I surprised? No, not at all.

  • Richie Stephens "I Wanna Hold Your Hand" (Beatles cover)
    Former member of Soul II Soul's R&B/Slow-Jam/Contemporary Gospel take on the Beatles. So ... bad. Seriously, right now this is No. 1 on the list of songs I'm certain will play on an endless loop when I'm in hell.

  • Jason Falkner "Pretty Ballerina" (Left Banke cover)
    Man, I love the Left Banke. This is my favorite of their songs and has quintessential psychedelic lyrics that make you question what in the hell this guy is talking about. Was the ballerina real? Was she just a dream? Just take another hit and it will all become clear.

    Likewise, I love Jason Falkner—even though he's a shapeshifter. By that I mean that, in some pictures, I find him stunningly attractive and in others quite abhorrent. Other than that, Jason as a one-man powerpop band is pretty damned brilliant.
  • Saturday, May 15, 2004

    I've got all my life to live and I've got so much love to give.

    My computer is still slowly dying and everything I do on it takes about 10 times longer than usual, so I'm behind on checking all the lovely blogs I normally do. I got a chance to check a few today, and thought you'd all be interested in the cover of the Divinyls' "I Touch Myself" by the Scala Choir in this Fluxblog entry. It's one of the thousands of songs I have in my own collection, which will take hundreds of years to share unless I get more web space sometime soon.

    Also, the Tofu Hut has a cover of "Big Girls Don't Cry" and a version of the original sea chantey of the Beach Boys' "Sloop John B" fame.

    And over at Songfight's Cover Fight, there was a country challenge (which somehow also involved Devo?) goin' on. Most of the tracks there are still downloadable.

    Unrelated: Is anyone else out there obsessed with cable's Trio network? I just can't get enough.

    Friday, May 14, 2004

    And, no, I'm not on any drugs right now.

    The following tracks are both from the quality tribute album Read: Interpreting Bjork. The first is one of those lounge-y "Girl from Ipanema"-sounding covers that has lots of potential to annoy, but instead charms. The second is basically your standard-issue "geeks with guitars" brand of cover, but it's by our new hipster overlords, so I'm legally required to love it.

  • Blanket Music "Hyper-Ballad" (Bjork cover)
    "Hyper-Ballad" always reminds me of The Day Acid Came to Bloomington.

    It was winter (either late 1995 or early 1996) and early one evening Ryan invited me over to his house to drop acid. I'd done acid once before, but with minimal success. We took a couple of hits and proceeded to listen to music and wait for the effects to hit. The albums of choice: Bjork's Post and Pulp's Different Class. At first, I barely noticed either playing because I was engrossed in visuals my continuous games of computer solitaire were creating for me. Later, I couldn't help but notice Bjork's rapturous howling and vividly imagined myself standing on a snow-capped mountain wearing a flowing white glow-in-the-dark gown throwing "car parts, bottles and cutlery" into a raging ocean. Later still, I struggled for an hour attempting to get the candy I didn't even want out of a pink transparent plastic replica of a cell phone we got at the gas station across the street.

    A few hours of freak-out ensued, and we took an insane cab ride to Second Story to see some band. (Ryan, do you remember which?) As we walked in the club, to which we had just been two nights before, everything was different. The entrance was newly painted and decorated with a string of lights. Once inside, incredibly confused, we waded through the crowd toward the back of the bar where there used to be a large booth and table in the hopes we could snag it before the hipsters did. But when we got to the back, the booth was gone. All that remained was one tiny bar table and a video golf game. Come to think of it, maybe the strings of lights were back there, but whatever.

    The place was packed and I was having a difficult time with the prospect of having to interact with anyone, though that didn't stop me from having a conversation with my crazy friend Aaron in a mixture of French and Italian. Ryan and I continued roaming and I somehow wound up in a conversation with an acquaintance named Chuck who was in a band called Lessick's Kid with my friend Brian. He kept rambling on and I was trying so hard to hold onto the words he was saying and assemble them in my head so they'd make sense, but it was really difficult. Then he said something I could grasp, "Okay, Liza, what are you on?" "Um, acid," I replied. "ME TOO!!! And so is so-and-so and so-and-so and so-and-so. Half of the people here are." I suddenly felt predictable and lame. Chuck continued rambling on about who was on what drug and I tried to focus my eyes on his face and his moving lips but all I could see was me back on top of that cliff in the glowing dress throwing myself into the waves below.

  • Ben Gibbard and Ben Barnett "Joga" (Bjork cover)
    Apparently at some point in the '70s and '80s, the Gibbards, the Kwellers, the Lees, the Barnetts and the Foldses must've received secret individual messages from the Indie Illuminati with orders to name their sons Ben in order that they might fulfill their joint destiny to hypnotize desperate folk like myself who suffer from hardcore geek-lust with their deadly combination of talent, quirk, honesty and—most importantly—record contracts and pretty covers. (I hear that if you fold a $50 bill just right, you can see a picture of Ben Lee and Claire Danes breaking up!)

    Any day now, the music-dork masses will rise up and push the start of a New World Order involving a strict daily regime of sitting around getting high, listening to one (or all) of the Chosen Bens, musing the cleverness of their lyrics and debating whether or not today will be the day that they decide to leave the house in an attempt to buy a new pair of Vans.

    And you know those dreaded black helicopters you've heard about? They're full of promo materials soon to be unleashed on the U.S.: record flats, T-shirts, iron-ons, EPs, bumper stikcers and the like. No one knows when exactly this piñata will burst and unleash the beginning of the Age of Ben, but let's just say that on March 15, 2005, you might want to carry an umbrella around with you lest a pin-back button skewer you in the head from a mile away.

    Possible brain damage aside, I, for one, eagerly anticipate the rule of our new Masters of Mope.
  • Wednesday, May 12, 2004

    I haven't felt so alive in years.

    Earlier, a friend posed the "what song would you want played at your funeral?" question, which always strikes me as odd since I've never been to a funeral at which specific songs were played. (Seriously, kids, add the soundtrack to your will ASAP, because I sincerely doubt whatever relative and/or mortician who will wind up planning the big event will be aware of what a huge impact that Evanescence ballad had on you.)

    Anyhow, I've never really thought about it because, as I said, I have this picture in my head of my mom being asked "So, what was her favorite song?" and her responding, "Well, she really liked the Bee Gees' 'Jive Talkin'' when she was 3." So, when posed the question, rather than picking some depressing dirge of a Smiths or Tom Waits song, off the top of my head I tried to think of a song that makes me feel optimistic, which is difficult feat for any song to accomplish. Unfortunately, as embarrassing it might be to cynical 31-year-old me, that song is by none other than Depeche Mode. What can I say? It's one of their most uncharacteristically light songs and it makes me happy.

    I was suspicious that this cover—especially considering my ire for most things grunge (or post-grunge)—would be just terrible. That it was a product of the all-cover soundtrack to Not Another Teen Movie, which featured that god-awful version of "Tainted Love" by Marilyn Manson, didn't convince me to heighten my expectations. But when your expectations are low, it's amazing how much you can wind up liking things. I gave it a chance and really like what he did with it. I periodically get the soft, catchy little loop that he uses as an intro (and throughout) stuck in my head and it makes me happy much in the same way the original did back in the day.

    Depeche Mode writing an uplifting song? Scott Weiland covering an uplifting song? I never saw either coming, but you're never too old to be reminded of the ol' judging-a-book-by-its-cover adage, I suppose.

    Unrelated: I'm pretty sure I hate the new Blogger interface.

  • Scott Weiland "But Not Tonight" (Depeche Mode cover)
  • Monday, May 10, 2004

    Sometimes I feel very sad.

    I'm in a nasty mood today. This song usually calms me down a bit and makes me feel less like jabbing people in the neck with ballpoint pens.

  • Feelds "I Just Wasn't Made for these Times" (Beach Boys cover)
    I'm not sure why I've been on a J-pop kick the past few days, but I do know this: Foreign tribute albums—such as Sony Japan's Smiling Pets, from whence this track comes—are 75% more likely to be good than their American counterparts.*

    *An estimate. No scientific data exists on the subject.
  • Sunday, May 09, 2004

    Hey, kids, rock 'n' roll.

    I don't care how rude Thom Yorke was to me when I complimented him on his fuzzy sweater before he was about to open for REM on their Monster Tour in 1995, The Bends remains to this day my favorite Radiohead album. Conversely, REM's Automatic for the People—despite the copious accolades it's received over the years or the many passionate arguments into which numerous REM fans have forced me on the topic—remains one of my most-hated albums of all time. So, yeah, it appears that I have at least The Bends thing in common with J-pop singer/songwriter Maika Shiratori. And speaking of Ms. Shiratori, I can't tell you much about her beyond the fact that she's Japanese and studied at Cambridge, which I learned from this mini-bio whose author is oblivious to the fact that he or she got her name backward.

  • Maika Shiratori "Fake Plastic Trees" (Radiohead cover)

  • Maika Shiratori "Drive" (REM cover)
  • A quickie for a friend.

  • Marc Almond "Jackie" (Jacques Brel cover)
    My pal Mikey is having one of those "I've had this song in my head for days, but I can't find a copy of it anywhere" moments, so I'm helping him out. Not that it wouldn't be worthy otherwise, of course. Still, my favorite cover of this song, however, is that performed by the brilliant Scott Walker, whose Scott Walker sings Jacques Brel album is so one of my Desert Island Discs. Perhaps when I return from brunch with my mother, I'll share a track from that. Speaking of: Happy Mothers Day to all the moms reading.
  • Wednesday, May 05, 2004

    Tommy Shaw asked me, "Hey, how's it going?" I can die happy now. I can go to sleep mildly amused now.

    In honor of the fact that I happened stumble into Tower to rent DVDs at the same time Styx—sans De Young—was signing records, I give you two Styx classics performed by artists most people have never heard of. That's what I do.

  • Keali'i Reichel "Come Sail Away" (Styx cover)
    What I know about Hawaiian music can be summed up in two bullet points:
  • When I was 2 years old and visiting Hawaii with my grandparents, I sang "Tiny Bubbles" on stage with Don Ho.
  • I never want to hear Israel Kamakawiwo'ole's now-ubiquitous version of "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" ever again. You know the one that was used in everything from eToys and hospital commercials to Meet Joe Black (I know, no one even saw that) to the episode of ER where the Anthony Edwards character bites it? Yeah, that one.

  • Polysics "Mr. Roboto" (Styx cover)
    Man, the Japanese are crazy. And awesome. And obsessed with Devo. And video games. Okay, I know this does not describe everyone from Japan, but it seems Polysics fits all four bills. And though in their own compositions they come off as unique, this cover is pretty faithful to the original. Well, if Shaw, DeYoung & Co. used more vocal effects and didn't take themselves so damned seriously. I mean, I was only about 11 when they released the Kilroy Was Here album—which I, of course, have on vinyl—and the "Mr. Roboto" video hit MTV, and even I knew that the little dystopia concept they'd created was not only uncool, but also quite possibly the lamest thing ever.
  • A change was made.

    Just so you know, as I mentioned before, the new URL for this site is now If you do not change your links or favorites to reflect this and you continue only to check the address, you will not be able to access my newer posts.

    This will be the last official post I make that will be accessible at the old address.

    Sorry for any inconvenience, but I had to change it in order to get my Atom XML feed to work.

    Tuesday, May 04, 2004

    When I think of the road I'm traveling on, I wonder what went wrong.

  • Reservoir "American Tune" (Paul Simon cover)
    In the mid-nineties, my friends Ryan and Gerry and I became briefly intrigued by the feedback-rich, somewhat morose, electronic song stylings of Long Island band Space Needle. They did experimental, proggy, mechanical chill-out music in the oddest, strangely noisy way and I suppose we were drinking enough or whatever back then that it seemed groundbreaking at the time. Besides, any '90s-era band cool enough to get Roger Dean to do an album cover has to be at least worth a try, right?

    A music retail slut, I also allowed my semi-obsession to branch out to all bands on the now-defunct Zero Hour label, amassing a collection of every sampler it released as well as promos of all its bands, one of which was Reservoir—the more melancholy, ambient and melodic solo project of Jud Ehrbar from Space Needle. This cover, which was available solely on the Zero Hour sampler On the House always creeped me out in a good way. The original was one of those songs from my childhood that confused me by its ability to actually make me think—about death, reflection and the uncertainty of the afterlife. (As all toddlers should.) Damn you, Paul Simon, for writing such a slow-but-poppy song about such a dark topic! I wonder if I would have been less depressed in my youth had I not been so affected by song lyrics. (Don't even get me started on how much I still long to find a lover who likes drinking piña coladas and getting caught in the rain.) This version, however, unlike the original, actually sounds as if it's about death, regret and remembrance, taking on a feel of a fuzzy funeral dirge. Nothing wrong with that.

    Also: If you can get past the terrible "band" name of Portland's Kind of Like Spitting, you should seek out its heartfelt live acoustic version of "American Tune." Very good as well. (And, yes, I'll probably post it here eventually.)
  • Pretty boy update:

    Further investigation shows that the covers created by my friend PJ, which I mentioned in the previous entry, can be acquired by heading over to The Musical Family Tree and selecting Admiral Stereo from its menu.

    Monday, May 03, 2004

    A lot of pretty, pretty boys that I call friends.

    Weird. I was going to tell you that, if you downloaded any of the Sardina tracks I recommended a while back and enjoyed them, that you should head over to my pal PJ's site to check out some of the cover songs he's recorded—such as the Pixies' "Gouge Away," the Beatles' "Wild Honey Pie" and Komeda's "Party Goin' On"— but his site appears to have temporarily disappeared. So, keep an eye out for the its return, if interested.

  • The Panoply Academy Corps of Engineers "Dreamer/Crime of the Century" (Supertramp cover)
    The Panoply Academy is my best friend's brother Marty's ever name-changing (click here to witness the slight alterations over the years) band. Well, one of his bands. (He's also in Turn Pale.) Marty's a dreamy, indie, vegan type that the dreamy, indie, vegan type that lives somewhere inside my overweight, increasingly conservative (in dress, not politics), omnivorous body has always wanted to openly lust after would it not be considered a little sick considering he's my best friend's brother. You know what I mean. It wouldn't work, of course, because he's obviously far cooler than I. Anyhow, Panoply is a wondrous little post-punk/art-rock outfit that sounds a little like what I imagine pop music sounding like in the future—or on other planets. This double cover might be disconcerting to those conditioned by traditional pop music (or to Supertramp purists, if there are such beasts), but I highly recommend it to the more musically adventurous or to fans of bands such as Sonic Youth, Nation of Ulysses or Q and not U and the like.