Archive for June, 2008


Threesome: alchemical transformations

June 30, 2008

Following up on our previous post, here are three heavy metal covers done right. Arab Strap (pictured above) do a version of “You Shook Me All Night Long” which should erase any memory of Celine Dion’s butchery. And as promised, here’s Emm Gryner’s quiet, piano-based version of Ozzy Osbourne’s “Crazy Train.”  Finally, the Dresden Dolls dusted off Black Sabbath’s 1970 anti-Vietnam-War anthem,  “War Pigs,” for their live shows:

Politicians hide themselves away
They only started the war
Why should they go out to fight?
They leave that role to the poor

Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose.

MP3: Arab Strap – You Shook Me All Night Long (more Arab Strap)

MP3: Emm Gryner – Crazy Train (more Emm Gryner)

MP3: The Dresden Dolls – War Pigs (live) (more Dresden Dolls)


Coverage: worst cover ever?

June 27, 2008

UK-based magazine Total Guitar recently published its lists of the 30 best and the 20 worst covers of all time. They chose Celine Dion’s version of AC/DC’s “You Shook Me All Night Long” in the latter category, which is definitely a worthy contender (that’s AC/DC, above). The BBC World News has a 36-second excerpt, and you can see how much of it you can take (I had heard enough at about the six-second mark).

As you might expect from a magazine called Total Guitar, their best cover ever was Jimi Hendrix’s version of “All Along the Watchtower.”

Stay tuned for a much better cover of “You Shook Me All Night Long.”

Agree or disagree with their choices? Feel free to nominate your own in the comments!


Old school: Bauhaus

June 25, 2008

Depending on how you count, it’s been a generation, maybe two, since the rise of what we’d consider independent music. So there’s a lot of good stuff that you may not have heard if you are new to the scene, either by age or inclination. Following up on my posting of an early-80s punk classic, I think I’m going to interpret ‘old school’ like ‘driving school’ and provide the odd bit of education on the old, starting with Bauhaus.

Despite its deeply Modernist name, cult favourite Bauhaus is often considered to be the sire of all goth bands. Their first single, 1979’s “Bela Lugosi’s Dead,” (if the name doesn’t ring a bell, click here) pretty much laid the groundwork for the genre – bleak, moody, and obsessed with vampires . Over the four or so years of their initial incarnation, they had several singles on the UK charts, including their brilliant cover of David Bowie’s “Ziggy Stardust.” As far as I know, however, Bauhaus was never more than a cult band in the US or Canada.

However, the members found more success in their post-breakup projects. Minus Peter Murphy, the remainder of the band went on to start Love and Rockets, which released a number of singles that received airplay in North America, including ‘Ball of Confusion,’ ‘No New Tale to Tell,’ and the surprise top-ten single ‘So Alive,’ which helped their 1989 self-titled album to go gold. For his part, Peter Murphy‘s solo career has also resulted in a number of hits, including 1989’s ‘Cuts You Up‘ (which topped the modern rock charts for 7 weeks), ‘The Sweetest Drop,’ and ‘Indigo Eyes.’ Murphy is still active and touring, and in fact will be bringing his lovely rich voice and amazingly high cheekbones to the Roxy in Boston on Saturday, June 28th.

MP3: Bauhaus – Bela Lugosi’s Dead

MP3: Love and Rockets – Ball of Confusion

MP3: Peter Murphy – The Sweetest Drop

More about: bauhaus love and rockets peter murphy


Takedown notices and antibacterial soap

June 24, 2008

I mentioned that Under the Rotunda received a takedown notice, asking them to remove leaked MP3s from the new Hold Steady album, Stay Positive. It was polite, and civilised, and Keith complied.

But I can’t help but think that takedown notices for leaked MP3s are as effective as antibacterial soap. The labels on the bottles proudly proclaim, “Kills 99% of bacteria!” But with an average doubling time of about 20 minutes, that just means that all the germs will be back in about two hours. On top of that, you’ve just selected for all the bugs that can survive the soap.

Blogs like Under the Rotunda and z=z might comply with a takedown notice, but I bet that you could still find the MP3s online without too much difficulty. And it’s not necessarily going to be on sites by music fans that are engaged in conversations about the album.

While I’m happy to accede to requests to remove MP3s, I’m not sure how holding the songs back for an extra six weeks will really help the band. And as a fan, I kind of worry about enthusiastic enforcement, since it makes me think of the difference between studios hosting preview screenings of their movies (because they are confident of what they’re selling and want the positive word of mouth) versus making sure no one can see their dud until opening weekend.

I’m definitely still thinking about these issues. And heaven knows the music companies, even the independents, haven’t really figured out how to deal with the brave new world of negligible distribution costs. Although The Hold Steady are certainly going in the right direction on another front, by stressing the physicality of the CD itself – it’s a limited-edition digipak.

Got an opinion? Feel free to share it in the comments.


Cassette From My Ex

June 21, 2008


Cassette from My Ex is a lovely blog where posters, mostly writers, musicians and other creative types, share the stories behind mixtapes they’ve received, as well as streaming audio of the contents. My own love of mixtapes (more recently, of course, mix CDs) is welldocumented, and I love this site. The first story I read was from Claudia Gonson, of the Magnetic Fields and more, and it’s an excellent place to start.

[via Neil Gaiman]


Upcoming: The Hold Steady, Stay Positive

June 19, 2008

The Hold Steady - Stay Positive

The Hold Steady’s new album, Stay Positive, is set to hit the stores (that phrase is becoming increasingly metaphorical) on July 15th. I’ve heard a bunch of tracks from it – the album was leaked – and I have to say that it sounds more like critical darling Boys and Girls in America than my personal fave, Separation Sunday. I have a soft spot for the specificity of Craig Finn’s lyrics, telling the stories of particular characters, and both his music and the libretti seem to be moving from being narrowly- to broadly-focused, and -appealing.

In accordance with the highly civilized takedown notice that they’ve been sending out to blogs that post tracks from the leaked album (more on that to come), I’m going to post the approved link to the approved song on their approved server. Enjoy.

MP3: The Hold Steady – Sequestered in Memphis

myspace amazon emusic

[via Keith at Under the Rotunda]


Coverage: The Dresden Dolls, “Pretty in Pink”

June 17, 2008

Pretty in Pink poster

Guest blogger Scott says:

This comes from a CD of 80s movie theme covers by various artists. Some of the other tracks are nice, but this is the only one that I really feel sounds like the artist tried to make it their own. And I had seriously never listened to the words of the verses before this. The original emphasizes the chorus, and its association with the Molly Ringwald oeuvre caused me to assume that it was just a “Hey, look at that girl” standard. Amanda really makes the verses tell their somber story much more effectively.

MP3: The Dresden Dolls – Pretty in Pink [Psychedelic Furs cover]

More Dresden Dolls: website myspace amazon

Previously: Coverage: Emm Gryner, “For What Reason”; Coverage: Vampire Weekend, “Exit Music (for a Film)“; Coverage: I Hate Kate, “Major Tom”