100 best covers: #84 Crash Test Dummies “Androgynous”

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Back at the end of April, I railed on about my love for the “The ghosts that haunt me”, the debut album by Winnipeg’s Crash Test Dummies, as part of my Best tunes of 1991 series (“Superman’s song” at #24). That darned cassette definitely got a workout in both my Walkman and my stereo while at home. I played it so often that I pretty much knew all the words to all ten songs on the album, though I’m sure studying the lyrics in the foldout cassette cover didn’t hurt. It was here that I was first tipped off that “Androgynous”, track three on side two, was a cover, the lyrics attributed to a “P. Westerberg”.

It was years, though, before I made the connection between that name and the legendary American punk rock band from the 80s: The Replacements. And years still until I actually sat down to listen to the original. It was, in fact, just this past week that I brought it up on YouTube, figuring I should probably do so since I’d be writing about it. I almost felt like a cheat when I made up this covers list, including Crash Test Dummies’ version on it as one of my favourite ever, not knowing the song on which it was based. But back in the day, I loved singing along to this song so much.

“Here come Dick, he’s wearing a skirt
Here comes Jane, you know she’s sporting a chain
Same hair, revolution
Same build, evolution
Tomorrow who’s gonna fuss
And they love each other so
Androgynous”

The version I know starts off slow and plodding, folky like the rest of the album, while Brad Robert’s bass-baritone melds with Ellen Reid’s angelic textures, until it picks up to a foot stomping climax. I checked out two versions of The Replacements performing it: what I think is the original and a live version performed in recent years. Their original has a juke joint rockabilly feel, plonking piano and sing along vocals but live, it has an even more raw edge, focused more with guitars.

Given that I haven’t as yet put aside time to explore more of The Replacements’ work, I don’t know how this song even fits within their back catalogue. I do like their version as well, so does this mean I need to check them out? Replacements fans, help me out.

The cover:

The original:

For the rest of the 100 best covers list, click here.

Vinyl love: Phosphorescent “Muchacho”

(Vinyl Love is a series of posts that quite simply lists, describes, and displays the pieces in my growing vinyl collection. You can bet that each record was given a spin during the drafting of each corresponding post.)

Artist: Phosphorescent
Album Title: Muchacho
Year released: 2013
Details: Gatefold cover

The skinny: If you’ve not heard the song below, do yourself a big favour and press play on the YouTube clip below. This was my introduction to the world of Matthew Houck and his work under the nom de plume, Phosphorescent. He changed his sound up pretty big for this, his sixth studio album, creating a whole world of sound for us to dive into. It’s now been five long years of waiting but he’s finally coming out with a new album in October and I can’t wait to hear it.

Standout track: “Song for Zula”

Best tunes of 2001: #11 The Lowest of the Low “New Westminster taxi squad”

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The Lowest of the Low were one of my favourite bands in the early 90s. A friend of mine loaned me a copy of their debut album, “Shakespeare my butt”, on cassette tape, which I dubbed and with which I promptly became obsessed. Their sophomore album came out in 1994 and though I was initially put off by “Hallucigenia”‘s harder rock edge, grew to love it as well. Like on the debut, the Toronto-based independent alternative rock band wrote literate, punk-informed songs that referenced places and things that people who knew Toronto would appreciate. In a short handful of years, they had made a huge fan of me and amassed a cult following in Southern Ontario and in communities in neighbouring parts of the US, like Buffalo. Then, they broke up, at Cafe Diplimatico (as the story goes), while preparing to record their third album and before I got the chance to see them live.

Meanwhile, their debut album kept selling copies and their legend grew. So much so that, in 2000, when all four original members decided to reform and do a string of club shows, they sold out in short order. It was so successful they decided to do more, a “world tour”, really just a handful of shows around Toronto and Buffalo, that culminated in a headline slot at Molson Amphitheater (which is a large outdoor concert venue, for those not from Toronto) on a night that included storied openers The Weakerthans and Billy Bragg. It was a great night of good cheer and singing along to every word. I can attest to this first hand because this was the night that I, along with my friend Zed, finally got to see The Lowest of the Low live.

A few months later, the band released “Nothing short of a bullet”: a live album put together from recordings of the original string of sold out reunion shows. At 18 tracks, it features selections from the first two albums and includes a couple of previously unrecorded, yet fan favourite tunes, like “The unbearable lightness of Jean”. But that is just the first disc. Yes, my friends, there was a second disc and as good as the live material was, it was this that was real gem for me: the first new material from one of my favourite bands in seven years. It was three tracks: one was a Bad Religion cover and the other two were split between the two principal songwriters: Stephen Stanley and Ron Hawkins.

It is from this bonus disc that song number eleven on my best tunes of 2001 comes. (I know. It took me a while to get here.) On the first two albums, I typically preferred the songs penned by Hawkins over those by Stanley but it was not the case here. Stanley’s “New Westminster Taxi Squad” is a rocker and a riot. It’s got energy and jump and you can almost picture the man first pumping, in full on punk pose, while Hawkins jumps around him with the other guitar, à la Mick Jones.

“Oh say, Oh my God
You’re going to pay for a ride
With the New Wesminster taxi squad
Oh say, I can see
You’ve got the weight of the world
On your shoulder and it’s killing me”

That’s right. Sing it, Steve.

For the rest of the Best tunes of 2001 list, click here.