Best tunes of 2000: #2 The Dandy Warhols “Bohemian like you”

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Thumping bass drums over a lovely bed of organs, the raunchiest of Keith Richards-ian guitar riffs is answered by a muscle-bound and growling bass line and then come the vocals, Courtney Taylor-Taylor’s uber cool delivery. “You got a great car. Yeah, what’s wrong with it today? I used to have one too, maybe I’ll come and have a look. See, we’re looking pretty cool.” And so begins the hilarious, but awesome rocker “Bohemian like you” by The Dandy Warhols.

But perhaps I’m getting ahead of myself.

I saw The Dandy Warhols perform for the first time back in 1997 at the now-defunct Guvernment in Toronto, opening for The Charlatans. I didn’t really know who they were at the time, save for hearing their big single, “Not if you were the last junkie on earth”, quite a bit on the local alternative radio station. They didn’t do much for my girlfriend (now wife) Victoria, who was with me, but they made an indelible impression on me with their edgy and noisy, but indubitably fun rock. So much so that their name stuck with me (how could it not?) and when their third album, “Thirteen tales of urban bohemia”, came out in 2000, I jumped on the CD immediately.

It was for this album that the Portland-based four-piece shed some (but not all) of their atmospheric excesses and slacker/prankster sensibilities and I’m not sure if it was intentional or not, but they produced a very tight, guitar rock album with some glam touches, here and there. “Thirteen tales” is great listening and after only once, I had deemed it necessary to share it with all my music-loving friends. I definitely remember one particular Saturday afternoon bringing it with me to my friend Tim’s place where it was one of many albums that we span during an afternoon/evening session of the board game, Axis & Allies. I pre-empted it by calling it “something we definitely would have been all over back in high school” because I noticed some questioning looks from my friends on account of the band’s name. But the album definitely made a mark on my foes for the afternoon, especially with my host, who, I think, saw them live the following year.

“Bohemian like you” is the ninth such tale from urban bohemia and is likely one of the tracks to bring them their greatest exposure, after placement in TV ads and appearances in countless films. As I mentioned before, it’s a hell of a rocker, like many of the tracks on the album. But this one, in my opinion, is elevated slightly higher by its ability to not take itself, nor its performers too seriously. The lyrics seem both a romanticization and an indictment of the hipper (or so they think) segment of the gen-x crowd, or the pre-hipsters, if you will. Playing like one side of a conversation between a guy and the girl he is courting, the guy talks himself up, offering to get her a free vegan meal at the restaurant he waits tables at, for instance. And ironically, shows himself as nothing much more than a great haircut.

All that to say, it’s a great song that begs being played and replayed and is second to only one other in this list of my fave tunes of 2000. Stay tuned for number one.

For the rest of the Best tunes of 2000 list, click here.

100 best covers: #95 Aurora “Half the world away”

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I was driving home from work last night, listening to the CD that was in the car’s player, which happened to be a mix I had made at the behest of my lovely wife. And I was thinking of Victoria because she is away in Toronto right now and I was returning home to an empty house. And I definitely smiled when this particular song came over the speakers at about the midway point in my trajectory, not because Toronto is even close to ‘half a world away’, but because I knew, even when making the mix, that despite this cover’s beauty, Victoria would never be a fan.

I’ve mentioned already in previous posts in this series that Victoria is not fond of covers and that, in her humble opinion, there’s definitely bands whose songs should never be touched. Oasis would likely fit nicely into this category. They are among the first bands that I introduced her to back in university and to whom she really took. Victoria could easily listen to anything by them in the era during which their first two albums were recorded and that even includes the B-sides, such as this track: “Half a world away”. Originally included on the “Whatever” single in 1994, Oasis’s version features Noel on vocals, acoustic guitars, and drums (!) with Paul Arthurs backing him on keys. It became pretty popular in the UK due to it being used as theme song to a sitcom there, called “The royle family”, in the late 90s.

However, if you google the words “Half the world away” today, chances are that Aurora’s cover is the first listing you will see. I came across this cover last year when I was first listening to the young Norwegian singer-songwriter’s debut album, “All my demons greeting me as a friend”, and I noticed it among the bonus tracks included on the deluxe edition. The album as a whole is fantastic. I pretty much latched on to her dark and haunting sound right away, likening it to the more Kate Bush-sounding Florence and the Machine songs. Her take on “Half the world away” is simple, yet lovely, her ringing voice skipping along a layered bed of pianos and strings. It’s even more wistful sounding and emotional than Noel’s tough-guy-with-a-tear rendition.

I love both versions pretty much equally, but in the absence of the original on the mixed CD, I was quite content to replay Aurora’s cover for the rest of the drive home. And smiling, of course.

The cover:

The original:

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

Vinyl love: Blur “The great escape”

(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: Blur
Album Title: The great escape
Year released: 1995
Year reissued: 2012
Details: 4 of 7 in Blur 21, anniversary box set, black vinyl, 180 gram, 2 x LP, Gatefold sleeve

The skinny: Released at the height of Britpop madness, Blur’s fourth album  finds the boys and their music as big and bloated and commercial, almost caricatures of themselves. Still, some really, really great stuff here, the song below included.

Standout track: “The universal”