Posts Tagged ‘smiths’


Threesome: Namecheck nation

September 9, 2008

[embedded YouTube video; if you can’t see it, click here]

Three songs that namecheck bands, with three different intentions.

The Dead Milkmen had a minor college radio hit in 1987 with their song, “Instant Club Hit (You’ll Dance to Anything),” which lampoons listeners of a number of (iterated) post-punk bands, such as The Communards. The best line in the song is, “I came to drink not to get laid.” (I’ve often thought that it would be useful to have a t-shirt with this line, although I’d probably substitute ‘dance’ for ‘drink.’)

In contrast to “Instant Club Hit,” which ridicules music fans for their taste, LCD Soundsystem‘s first A-side, 2002’s “Losing My Edge,” simultaneously celebrates and mocks obsessive music fans with its iteration of bands and repeated refrain of “I was there…” James Murphy slyly mixes reality in with the hyperbole – “I was there in 1974 at the first Suicide practices in a loft in New York City” (probably not, since he was four) is alongside “I was the first guy playing Daft Punk to the rock kids. I played it at CBGB’s’ (yup). But the best phrase is undeniably the description of “art-school Brooklynites in little jackets and borrowed nostalgia for the unremembered eighties.’

Finally, Dan Le Sac and Scroobius Pip rail against taking music too seriously in “Thou Shalt Always Kill,” off Angles, which was just released in the US. The best part of this song is definitely the visual-pun-laden video [above]. While the lyrics are self-consciously countercultural and more than a tiny bit preachy, Dan et Scroobius get props for the line, “Thou shalt not question Stephen Fry.” Advocating spelling ‘phoenix’ as ‘pheonix,’ however, is suspect, to say the least.

For the record, The Smiths show up in both “Instant Club Hit” and “Thou Shalt Not Kill,” and Public Image Ltd shows up in both “Thou Shalt Not Kill” and “Losing My Edge.”

MP3: Dead Milkmen – Instant Club Hit (You’ll Dance to Anything) (warning: contains homophobic language)

MP3: LCD Soundsystem – Losing My Edge

MP3: Dan le Sac vs Scroobius Pip – Thou Shalt Always Kill


Coverage: Stars, ‘This Charming Man’

February 26, 2008

One of the recurring themes in Daniel J. Levitin’s book, This Is Your Brain on Music, is the the centrality of expectations, both fulfilled and violated, in our experience of music. We have expectations at the level of individual phrases (whether chords are resolved or not, say), at the level of the song structure, the genre, and the overall sound (why Western music sounds different from say, traditional Chinese music). This probably goes a long way towards explaining why most of us need to hear a song a few times for it to ‘register.’ But it occurred to me, reading this book, that there is another important area of violated or fulfilled expectations, and that’s the existence of cover versions of songs. Cover songs – good ones, anyway – combine pleasing familiarity and pleasing novelty in a neat little package.

At a more intellectual level, Rosie Swash, of the Guardian Unlimited’s Music Weekly podcast, talked about the three factors that make for a good cover version: the element of surprise; history or meaning; and the cover artist making the song their own.

So welcome to Coverage, an intermittent feature on this blog, in which I post some of my favourite covers. Enjoy!

Stars – This Charming Man [original version by The Smiths]