Wednesday, June 30, 2004

What gives?

Just a quick note to say I'm not sure what's up with some of my tracks not working. Was anyone able to get the Hikashu at all? Say yesterday or something? I don't know if my data transfer overloaded or if Geocities server is just sucking, so if anyone who was able to hear it at some point, please lemme know so I can suss out the problem.

Tuesday, June 29, 2004

Today is the day we've waited for.

I meant to post these yesterday as "covers that make me happy on my birthday," but my birthday here at work was riddled with computer woes. So, yeah. I'm 32 now. And these songs make me happy today as well.

  • The Delgados "Mr. Blue Sky" (ELO cover) 7.7MB
    I have to admit I was surprised by the sudden ubiquity of this former guilty pleasure of mine. First that VW commercial, then in the ads for Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, among other places. I don't care how much your finger is on the pulse of media and/or advertising, you just don't expect Electric Light Orchestra to make a comeback, however slight. But, if they had to, I'm glad it was with this poppy, uplifting track. Not that I'd begrudge anyone their obsession with the hits in Xanadu or any of the rollerskating jams of yore, of course. I'm so down with "I'm Alive" and "Don't Bring Me Down" it's a little sick, really.

    As for the Delgados and their cover, I like 'em both. And if you like what you hear, I highly recommend checking out their latest album, Hate, which is chock-full of brilliant somber, melancholy and lushly orchestrated mini-epics. And their creepy UK hit "Pull the Wires from the Wall" from Peloton is one of my favorite songs ever.

  • Hikashu "The Model" (Kraftwerk cover) 3.1MB
    I'm having a bit of a Kraftwerk attack lately. And I almost always have the melody from the verse of "The Model" in my head. And, Jesus, there are a lot of Kraftwerk covers and tribute albums out there from which to choose, no? Well, this from experimental Japanese avant-garde rock outfit Hikashu is one of my favorites. Enjoy.
  • Wednesday, June 23, 2004

    Tell her to jump higher.

  • Self "Stratford-on-Guy" (Liz Phair cover) 3MB
    Sigh. I miss the days when I could look at hot pictures of Liz Phair and actually respect myself in the morning. Not so much anymore, huh? Yeah, I could bitch and moan about the fact that she's "sold out" and is appealing to the lowest common denominator for posing for the craptacular Maxim machine. I could retch a little when I'm reminded that she's heading up a Maybelline-sponsored tour entitled "Chicks with Attitude." (Blech!) But the real key for my growing hatred for her is that she's doing all of this backed by the power (?) of her weakest album to date. And it's not just weak—it's horrible and, for the most part, lyrically bland. It hurts me to hear it. There was a time when Liz could sing about cum and I was right there with her, thinking she was speaking for all the bitter sluts like me. How I'm supposed to believe that someone who threw the terribly disturbing "even when I was 12" lyric into a song called "Fuck and Run" ages ago is suddenly naively asking us why she can't breathe when she's around us? I just can't reconcile it. When a 16-year-old pop princess sings vapid pop songs at me, that's fine. I expect nothing more. When a powerful, once-groundbreaking female artist who's pushing 40 tries it, it's really kinda sad.

    This cover, by the sometimes worthwhile and sometimes annoying all-over-the-map quirk rockers Self is surprisingly straightforward and slightly boring. I'd have a expected something a little more interesting from a band whose last album was performed solely on toy instruments. But it's a good song. Classic Liz. Sexy, ballsy Liz. Not the new Avril-Lavigne-meets-Carmen-Electra Liz.
  • Tuesday, June 22, 2004

    Nothing lasts forever. I'm sorry, I can't be perfect.

    As you might be able to tell, I'm a kind of love/hate kinda gal. As such, I have a long history of mocking things so incessantly that, the next thing I know, I kind of like them. For instance, my freshman year of college, my friends and I detested New Kids on the Block with such fervor, that we ironically picked favorites and subsequently began purchasing actual NKOTB merchandise. That plush Donnie Wahlberg doll* with the faux acid-washed jeans and horrifying tail of hair? I had it. I slept with that creepy thing, for God's sake.

    The next year, Color Me Badd made it big on the scene and my roommates and I would "lovingly" serenade one another with "I adore ... mi amor" on a regular basis while striking random and ridiculous poses, as those freaks did in the video. About a month later, someone (it wasn't me, I swear!) actually brought the CD into our apartment and began playing it on a regular basis. Man, CMB really wanted to sex us up, didn't they?

    And had you told me in 1997 that by 2004 I'd happily sing along to *NSync songs and own a Joey Fatone bobblehead*, even despite my noted past as an irony lover, I would've doubted you.

    More recently, my pal Eric and I repeatedly found ourselves stumbling on that ridiculous Simple Plan video in which the lead singer whines incessantly on the rooftop about his much-flawed relationship with his dad—with which we promptly began loudly singing along on a regular basis, much to the presumed dismay of my neighbors. In fact, I've come to regard it as "our song."

    So, yes, I've established that I'm not quite past my "this is so bad it's good" phase. I still wear the ironic T-shirt from time to time, albeit totally passé. And I'm increasingly okay with the fact that this actually might not be a phase at all and that it simply could be who I am. And the creation this blog is evidence that I'm beginning to accept and revel in that. Sort of.

    That said, if anything could spark me to change my lifestyle, it would be today's selections. Some things really are so bad it's not funny to me. Granted, this is in part because the originals are two of my favorite songs ever. EVER. It's also in part because they suck. Really suck. Suck hard. Suck to the suck power.

    Hear for yourselves.

  • Naomi Campbell "Ride a White Swan" (T. Rex cover) 3.4MB
    Come to think of it, this one's growing on me. Like a fungus. A fungus composed of chirping birds and off-key over-enunciation. Seriously, supermodels should be seen and not heard. No matter how many Japanese fans will buy your albums. And naming an album Babywoman? I won't even go into how I feel about that. (Note: Campbell has her own doll too.)

  • Public Toys "Disco 2000" (Pulp cover) 2.9MB
    Um, yeah.

    *"Ironic" gifts from friends.
  • Monday, June 21, 2004

    Cheese stands alone.

    There are hundreds of lounged-up covers out there, to be sure, but the only ones that really matter to me come from Richard (or Dick) Cheese and Lounge Against the Machine. Generally, I tend to find myself hating bands who strictly do covers (Hayseed Dixie and Me First and the Gimme Gimmes, I'm looking in your direction), but ol' Dick Cheese has the uncanny ability to make even my most-hated radio classics amusing enough to listen to repeatedly. For instance, I never thought the new millennium frat party classic "Butterfly" by Crazy Town could be so imminently listenable. Because I'm inexplicably not yet jaded enough to hate how damned clever he is and practically love it all—and because his repertoire is huge—I had a difficult time choosing which songs to showcase here. His live version of the Lords of Acid's "Let Me See Your Pussy"? His 48-second run-through of Kelis' "Milkshake"? It was all too daunting. Alas, that's what shuffle play is for: making my decisions for me. I'm glad that it landed on the "Stand Up"-meets-"Danke Schoen" brilliance.

  • Richard Cheese "Come Out and Play" (Offspring cover) 2.6MB

  • Richard Cheese "Nookie/Break Stuff" (Limp Bizkit cover) 2.5MB

  • Richard Cheese "Stand Up" (Ludacris cover) 2.5MB

  • Richard Cheese "Yellow" (Coldplay cover) 2.1MB

    Just can't get enough? All of Cheese's CDs are available at his site, and those of you in the Pacific Northwest who find yourselves enjoying the insanity can check out his live show in the next month.
  • Saturday, June 19, 2004

    I don't wanna look, but I'm already hooked.

    I was going to post Dar Williams' version of David Bowie's "Starman" later this week, but I guess now I don't have to. Is it okay that, though I think the Womenfolk blog is cool, I'm kinda jealous that I was beaten to the punch on posting those tracks by someone who is so obviously better at describing things than I am? Eh. Whatever. My period should be over in a day or two and then I won't care so much anymore.

    Friday, June 18, 2004

    Honey, I'm home.

    I've been feeling guilty for the infrequency of my posts due to my computer woes, so today I'm posting a million songs (six is almost a million, right?) in an attempt to redeem myself. And, shock of all shocks, I think I like most of these.

  • The Balanescu Quartet "Pocket Calculator" (Kraftwerk cover) 5.5MB
    If you've spent any time at all hunting around on Soulseek (or whatever), you've undoubtedly come across one—if not 1,000—of the plethora of string quartet tribute albums that have sprung up in the past year or so. This trend's impetus appears to have been spurred on by Apocalyptica's surprising success covering Metallica songs in the mid-1990s. And while I respect the attempt in some cases, I just don't really think the world needs a classical version of Weezer's "Hash Pipe." (Seriously, if you wanna see how out of hand this trend has become, I have some proof. 311? Audioslave? Are you fucking kidding me?)

    Anyhow, predating all of the aforementioned crap work was violinist/violist (and fellow Romanian) Alexander Balanescu's awesome tribute to Kraftwerk, Possessed. (Well, at least half of the songs are Kraftwerk songs.) Sure, the songs of Kraftwerk are easily more Baroque than those of Incubus or Slayer or whatever new string tribute currently in the works, but that doesn't mean that Balanescu didn't work hard to create these interesting, highly listenable covers. I love what he did, and I hope at least a few of you do as well.

  • Poole "No Matter What" (Badfinger cover) 2.8MB
    This track comes from a spinART label sampler that was packaged with AP magazine (I think) a while back, which actually introduced me to the Apples in Stereo-esque band Poole. It sounds a hell of a lot like the original, to be sure, but it's infused just enough with that sunshiny pop goodness for which bands of this ilk are known that it seems new again.

  • Scarling "Creep" (Radiohead cover) 5.6MB
    I can't tell right now whether I like this cover or not, but I do know that this band certainly must've gotten a healthy dose of Medicine.

  • The Beards "(I'm Always Touched by Your) Presence Dear" (Blondie cover) 4.9MB
    When I found out (about 10 hours ago) that The Beards was a sort of side project band featuring Lisa and Sherri from Buck (And Lisa was in Cub too) and Kim from the Muffs, I was disappointed that I'd never heard of them before. I really like this cover. And I'd talk more about why if I weren't about to leave work. Really.

  • Tori Amos "Strange Fruit" (Billie Holiday cover) 3.9MB
    Man, Tori can really scare songs up, can't she? Granted, a song about lynching is a song about lynching, but when I hear this version, I can really see the bodies swaying in a way that I don't when I hear the others.

  • Wilson Phillips "Doctor My Eyes" (Jackson Browne cover) 2.8MB
    Forget the Pixies. Forget the Beastie Boys. This is the comeback you've been waiting for and you know it. Heh.
  • Thursday, June 17, 2004

    I give good love to you, baby.

    I'm certain most of you are already reading Fluxblog, aka the god of MP3 blogs, on a regular basis, yes? Because you should be, as Matthew's selections are as interesting and diverse as they get—and because he's hip to the covers as well. For instance, the other day he posted the Scissor Sisters doing a cover of that Franz Ferdinand song MTV tells me is so damned buzzworthy.

    Also, The Wily Filipino tipped his hat to me and recently posted Chinese pop star Faye Wong covering the Cranberries' "Dreams."

    So, check 'em out.

    Wednesday, June 16, 2004

    And this may be all you need to know.

    Last weekend, I wound up with an offer from a friend to use two free (to me) tickets to a Linda Ronstadt/Aaron Neville concert. Usually, this is not something I'd agree to, but my mom happened to be in town when the call came and was ecstatic at the prospect, so we went. Besides, Linda is pretty much the undisputed old-school queen of covers, so it became research. Heh. Yeah.

    Aaron Neville is, if you can imagine, even more annoying in person, as he apparently believes his warbly falsetto doesn't warble enough on its own and spends his time on stage purposefully shaking his microphone in front of his face, which itself is clenched as if he's taking the biggest shit of his life—which, I guess, in essence, he is.

    Linda's voice is pretty damned powerful, but she used it primarily to sing jazz standards and the syrupy, shit duets like "I Don't Know Much (But I Know I love You)." She sang a couple of her cover hits, a "Blue Bayou" (Roy Orbison) here, a "Just One Look" (Martha & the Vandellas, among many others) there. But she didn't sing my favorites. No "Different Drum" (a song I've sung a million times at karaoke). No "When Will I Be Loved."

    Also disturbing is that her eyes were pretty consistently trained on the teleprompter on the floor in front of her. And she used it a lot, which is pretty sad. For instance, if you need a reminder that the first word in the song "Desperado" is desperado, I think you need a little more help than a teleprompter can provide.

  • The Lemonheads "Different Drum" (Linda Ronstadt [Mike Nesmith wrote it, you know] cover)
    As I said, this is my favorite Linda Ronstadt song. I love the idea that a song written in the same era as the woman-as-doormat classics like "He Hit Me (It Felt Like a Kiss)" and "Wishin' and Hopin'" could be so progressive. That's right, Linda, women don't have to feel the need to be tied down to men, even the pretty ones. However, to quote our old friend Shania "Where in the Hell Has She Been" Twain, this version don't impress me much. It was a B-side on one of the "It's a Shame About Ray" singles, I think, and is, for the most part, far less inspiring to me with a (quite apathetic-sounding) man singing it.

  • Linda Ronstadt "When Will I Be Loved" (Everly Brothers cover)
    I think it's safe to say that this is my favorite version of this song—although the Mannfred Mann version is a close second. Perhaps, more than anything, this reflects my nostalgia for hearing powerful female vocals to which my mom would happily sing along while she drove me to nursery school.
  • Tuesday, June 15, 2004

    It says nothing to me about my life.

    I'm trying three new experiments today. Firstly, I'm using bandwidth from my crusty ol' Geocities account to host today's songs. I pay extra for remote linking purposes, so in theory it should work. However, I know that Geocities overloads quickly and downloads tend to be a little slow, so you've been warned. Hopefully things will go smoothly, although I do have my doubts. I mean, stupid Yahoo rolled out its new 100 MB e-mail accounts today, and it's annoyingly slow and only seems to work intermittently. Who knows how that's going to affect its other services? Seriously, I'm GMail all the way, yo. Note to Yahoo: Beta tests are worthwhile.

    Secondly, I'm updating from work. Actually, I've done that once or twice before, but today it's extra dead so I'm doing it again. This is worth mentioning only because I have no way of checking to test the links from here to see how quick or slow or dead they might be.

    Thirdly, I'm posting a couple of reader requests. I'm not certain that's something I want to commit to doing long-term, but it just so happens that these songs happened to already be on my hard drive when requested, and I figure you can fight kismet such as that.

    So, let's do it already.

  • Sardina "Me and My Arrow" (Harry Nilsson cover)
    I'm not certain whether this is sad or cool, but I had never heard this song until Sardina covered it. (Who is Sardina?) The only Nilsson song of which I was aware in my childhood was "Coconut," which longtime readers heard Dannii Minogue mutilate back in March back before my blog was a blog. Aaaanyway, Father Tom wanted to hear it and I was happy to oblige.

  • The Business "Panic" (Smiths cover)
    Reader Charlie says this is bar none his favorite cover, and he can't find it. Until now. This track comes from The World Still Won't Listen, a hardcore punk tribute to the Smiths that is pretty expertly described right here. (Sorry, it's so slow here that it's made me inexcusably lazy about writing.) I should defend this track, though, by saying that, at the very least, this band seems to actually like the Smiths enough to have included this cover on one of their own EPs, unlike many of the "yeah, I'd like to be on a tribute album for exposure" bands on this disc. Well, perhaps, more accurately, they like the message that DJs should be hanged. Whatever. The Business are definitely giving you some hardcore Oi! on this track. Guttural gutter punks indeed.

    Related: Feel like hunting out a list of nearly all available covers of Smiths songs? Here's a little one-stop shopping for you. Sheesh. These crazy people on the Internet with their crazy obsessions. They're all sick in the head. Um, except me.

  • Supergrass "Just Dropped In (To See What Condition my Condition is In)" (Mickey Newbury cover—although most people are probably more familiar with The version by Willie Nelson or with Kenny Rogers' version, which was in The Big Lebowski)
    This is my own request. I just got a hold of the long out-of-print, 1992 three-disc wonder, Ruby Trax: The NME's Roaring Forty. Okay, okay ... my computer just got a hold of the MP3s. Anyhow, if you can get past the fact that half of the covers on it are most probably on a continual loop as part of whatever psychological torture takes place at facilities like Guantanamo, the rest are pretty damned good. (Laze alert: See this spot-on review for an accurate summation.) This country-cum-psychedelic-garage take by the oft-effervescent Supergrass is my new "get ready for work in the morning" jam. Tip: Don't overanalyze the lyrics. Some things are so much better when they make absolutely no sense.

    EDIT: I'm on crack. That Supergrass song isn't on that compilation at all. I knew as I was typing that up that the timeline seemed off. And I totally knew that it was a B-side to one of their singles. I was thinking of some other song that I meant to post. My apologies. My brain was erased by work boredom.

    Love, Liza
  • Friday, June 11, 2004

    When I woke up this morning, you were on my mind. And you were on my mind.

    Oh, I've got troubles.

    Hey, kids. No new songs just yet, I just wanted to check in and say hi and thank everyone who's been reading, commenting on and linking to this site. As I've said a few times, my home computer is slowly dying, and it's annoying as hell. I've pretty much been avoiding using it because I get so infuriated at having to reboot it two or three times an hour. I'll probably get some new songs up over the weekend when I have more time to deal with it.

    I'm thinking that my late-June birthday will yield a newer, faster, smarter, better computer (or at least some money to help me buy one), so I should be able to post on a more regular basis (and possibly keep the songs up longer) beginning in July. I just wanted to let y'all know. (Yes, I'm from Chicago and I just called you "y'all." Deal with it.)

    Again, thanks for your attention and for your patience. You rule.

    Monday, June 07, 2004

    But you don't really care for music, do you?

    Oh, the things my subconscious can conjure up. A few nights ago, I had a dream in which I was marrying Ryan Dunn from Jackass and Viva La Bam! Generally, this would be a strange enough dream on its own, but when you're as twisted as I apparently am, I guess there always has to be a little extra weirdness thrown in for good measure that may or may not inspire me to add specific tracks to this blog. Well, playing an electric violin (or was it a viola?) as I walked up the aisle in a gown reminiscent of that Madonna wore on the first MTV Awards was none other than a Velvet Underground-era John Cale. Uh, okay.

    To celebrate Cale's appearance in my head, here are a few Cale-related covers for you all.

  • Mercury Rev "(I Keep a) Close Watch" (John Cale cover)
    This was a B-side to one of the "Little Rhymes" singles that I always thought sounded familiar, but which I couldn't place. A few months after wondering "how do I know this song?", I finally looked it up and saw that it was written and originally performed by Cale. D'oh. So much for my encyclopedic knowledge of music, eh?

  • Sugar Ray "Spinning Away" (Brian Eno & John Cale cover)
    You know, it kills me to say this since my hatred for Mark McGrath knows no bounds, but this is a pretty good cover. Of course, it helps when Brian Eno (who wrote and performed the original) is producing. Found on the soundtrack to the craptastic Leonardo DiCaprio vehicle The Beach, this track is a little brighter and poppier than the original and that's okay. That's what Sugar Ray do: They turn everything they touch into an accessible, competent, innocuous pop hit ready to be absorbed by the masses—their funk metal debut Lemonade and Brownies notwithstanding.

    Actually, just the other day I found myself wondering, "When are Sugar Ray gonna come along and bore us/drive us insane with another album full of catchy-but-predictable lyrics and hooks?" Then I remembered that they released an album last year—of which I'm only aware due to the "why'd they even bother it sounds exactly the same" cover of Joe Jackson's "Is She Really Going Out With Him" and which, as far as I can tell, made absolutely no real impact on anyone.

    Unrelated to Sugar Ray: The album from whence comes the original "Spinning Away," Brian Eno and John Cale's Wrong Way Up, which my friend Gerry introduced me to a few years back, has gone on to become one of my favorite albums released in the 1990s.

  • John Cale "Hallelujah" (Leonard Cohen cover)
    The little things confuse me. By the time I saw Shrek, I was aware that my sexy gay boyfriend Rufus Wainwright's cover of "Hallelujah" was on the soundtrack. But when I watched the scene that actually featured "Hallelujah," it was not Rufus' version at all. Instead it was my favorite version. The John Cale version, which I first heard when I purchased the Leonard Cohen tribute album I'm Your Fan when it came out in 1991. Yes, you heard right. This is my favorite cover of this song. Not Jeff Buckley's, not U2's, not Bob Dylan's, not Sheryl Crow's. You get the picture. There's just something extra sad and dark about this one. I'm still confused about the whole movie-versus-soundtrack phenomenon, but whatever. I'll take this song wherever I can get it.
  • Wednesday, June 02, 2004

    The 22nd of geekiness.

    Some days, I try to pick tracks I think work well together. Other times, I throw some songs on shuffle and let technology choose. Tonight, since TRIO is showing an episode of Pink Lady and Jeff in which Pink Lady sing and dance to "Ease on Down the Road" (and later do a duet of "Heaven Knows" with Donny Osmond!) and from which I can't turn away, I've been forced to choose the latter. Oh shit! Now Teddy Pendergrass is singing "Do Me." This is heaven.

  • Afghan Whigs "Creep" (TLC cover)
    Greg Dulli is sexy, but this cover is ultimately predictable and just plain not very good. Basically it's the band badgering you with: "You'd never expect us to cover this, would you? Huh? Huh? Yeah, that's what I thought. We're so ironic and cool." Feh. It does remind me of the satin pajamas blowing in the wind in the original video though. Honestly, TLC, En Vogue and Salt-N-Pepa really kept Victoria's Secret in business in the early/mid 1990s.

  • Paradise Lost "Smalltown Boy" (Bronski Beat cover)

    I guess I'm supposed to be impressed that a band as "tough" as Paradise Lost (I mean, they're "doom metal," for chrissakes!) is really deep for covering this coming-out-of-the-closet anthem, thus replacing Jimmy Somerville's falsetto with a meatier, annoying Cult-meets-Creed vocal. But I'm not. C'mon, boys, Sisters of Mercy already exists—and they're good.

  • Sobaki Tabaka! "In Your Room" (Depeche Mode cover)

    My non-scientific estimation of how many Depeche Mode tribute albums exist in the world is 17 million. My estimation of how many are worth a listen is approximately two, give or take a few. Now, I'm not saying that A Russian Tribute to Depeche Mode is one of those few, per se. I am, however, going out on a limb to say it's by far one of the more interesting—far more interesting than your average techno, synth, goth or darkwave DM tribute.

    This bizarre track is downright filmic. Lynchian. First you're in a dream sequence prominently featuring lizards and midgets who prophesy your demise. Then you're fondling the breasts of an aging redneck waitress while dancing drunkenly on a tabletop of an all-night diner/bar. Then the evangelist bum played by Tom Waits begins preaching scripture in Russian. Then you're back in the blur of the dream, one midget assuring you it isn't really happening while the other assures the opposite and encourages you to begin a hunt for your ex-boyfriend's wallet chain, which will hold the key to breaking the mystery you've been trying to solve for years.

    Or not.

    See the band's alleged mission here.

    And while we're talking about neither-bad-nor-good strangely intriguing covers:

    Head on over to Japanese acapella beatboxer Dokaka's MP3 page. I recommend starting with "Smells Like Teen Spirit" and continuing onto the others if you feel you've got the stomach for it.