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100 best covers: #57 Luna with Laetitia Sadier “Bonnie & Clyde”

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The second album I ever listened to by New York-based dream pop band, Luna was their third album, 1995’s “Penthouse”. I brought home the CD with me one day a few years after its release and put it right in my player, where it stayed for a few weeks. There was a hidden bonus track on the CD, a French-language number that told the story of legendary criminal lovers, Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow, and it quickly became a favourite of mine on the album, even though my knowledge of French was limited at the time. And of course, back then, I had no idea it was a cover.

The original version of  “Bonnie and Clyde” was recorded by legendary musician/artist Serge Gainsbourg with French film actress Brigitte Bardot in 1968. Theirs was much more sped up than the version I first heard but with just as dreamy a feel, and just as timeless. It definitely doesn’t sound like something I imagine coming out the sixties. Relentless guitars in a wind tunnel on one channel and a weird vocal effect that sounds like a hiccup repeating on the other. I don’t know much about Gainsbourg’s other work but this duet with actress Brigitte Bardot is practically spoken word, which is apt given that the words were based heavily on an English language poem written by Bonnie Parker herself.

And yeah, this is just one of the many excellent covers that Luna has done over the years. This group seems to love doing them and remaking them into something that completely fits within their oeuvre so that it sounds all their own. In fact, Luna has done so many of them that when they released their “best of” compilation in 2006, the deluxe release included a bonus disc called “Lunafied” that gathered up all of their best covers from over the years and of course, this one was included.

Luna’s version of “Bonnie and Clyde” included the work of Stereolab’s Laetitia Sadier, performing the vocal parts originated by Bardot. The bonus track that I knew and loved was later re-released as a single and renamed as the Clyde Barrow version and a slower version was also made available as the Bonnie Parker version*. Both of these are just incredible explosions of surreal dream worlds, full of echoes and images and imaginings in French. And now that I actually understand the language somewhat, I enjoy the song even more.

Which do I prefer? Sorry, Serge, I might just have to go with the cover here.

Cover:

The original:

*Both of these appeared on the aforementioned “Lunafied” compilation, which when released by Runout Groove Records on vinyl a few years ago, I just had to purchase for my collection.

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

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Tunes Vinyl

Best tunes of 2012: #11 Young Galaxy “Youth is wasted on the young”

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Happy Thursday everyone!

It’s doubly happy for me because today marks the first day of a two week vacation from work. And to truly recharge, I’ve decided to take a brief blogging break as well. But first, I’ve got something fun to send things off right. I have a song here that provides a unique opportunity to combine a post for my Best tunes of 2012 list with one for my ‘Vinyl love’ series. Let me explain.

In the spring of 2012, I had just started collecting vinyl. My wife had texted me from Greenwich village in New York City where she was visiting a friend. She had happened upon a street sale and one of the vendors happened to be selling used vinyl, some by bands that she knew I loved, and I remember her specifically asking if I wanted Oasis’s debut album on vinyl. When I responded that I didn’t have a turntable, she said that she planned on getting me one. She ended up coming home with “Definitely maybe”, as well as “Talking Heads: 77”, both of which are still on my shelves. Shortly after that, I ventured out on my very first Record Store Day and purchased my first exclusive. A vinyl addict was born.

If it wasn’t for those events, I may not have even flinched when I heard the news that Paper Bag Records was releasing a double a-side 7”, vinyl only release from Young Galaxy. It’s true that the Montreal-based dream pop band had just released their third album, “Shapeshifting”, on Paper Bag the previous year and though it was a departure for them, it was a welcome one and garnered them lots of new attention. It’s also a fact that I had contributed to the group’s Kickstarter campaign a few months earlier to help raised funds for them to travel to Sweden to work again with the producer of “Shapeshifting” for their next album, but this time in person. So I was already excited and on the lookout for news from one of my favourite Canadian bands in years and it didn’t hurt that they were working with my favourite indie label at the time, who I thought for a while, were turning to gold everything they touched. But it was the vinyl already sitting on my shelf that greased the wheel and I placed the online order.

The record arrived in the mail, wrapped in brown paper, a fun touch that the label was doing back then. I brought it home and admired it with plenty of “oohs” and “aahs” before putting it on the shelf with the rest of the small collection I had amassed thus far. I didn’t yet have a turntable so I had to listen to the two songs on my computer, care of the download rights that came with the purchase. I listened to both the a-side and the double-a-side, “Shoreless kid” and “Youth is wasted on the young”, and was struck by how different they sounded (and yet, at the same time similar in aesthetic) to the album they had released the previous year. I thought at the time that these two songs that were heavier on the guitar were either signalling a return to their earlier sound or a last kiss good bye as they soared off into the synthesized horizon. It turns out it was the latter.

“Youth is wasted on the young” starts off feeling a little construction time again with pipes spewing steam and rivets being pounded and then, the Johnny Marr guitars chime in with the jangles and everything kicks into highway driving roars. It sounds very much like 1983, dark and shiny leather jackets and all manner of sunglasses cool. And Catherine McCandless is channelling some Siouxsie Sioux, a strong woman, glamorous and iconic, against the world, keeping up with the frenetic pace of it all. It’s like a love song to both the music of the band’s youth and to the music of today that is just as fresh and fabulous.

I wouldn’t mind dying at all
If it weren’t for the songs I’d miss…
Youth is wasted on the young

See you all again soon.

For the rest of the Best tunes of 2012 list, click here.

Categories
Tunes

Best tunes of 1993: #25 Primus “My name is mud”

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In Oshawa, Ontario, Canada*, there used to be an infamous record shop called Star Records. It was started by Mike Shulga, the child of Ukrainian immigrants, who rebranded himself as Mike Star and became a big player in punk and underground music. His record store sprouted a record label (the first home of The Forgotten Rebels) and a renowned music venue, but it was the shop that would see the longevity. It opened its doors in 1974 and didn’t close until the year after its founder’s untimely death in 2015. It was temporarily replaced by a Kops Records chain location but I don’t know what’s there now.

I mention Star Records today as a nod because it will forever be connected with today’s song of focus, given that the one time I ever purposely went to the store was in the summer of 1993 and it was that very day that I first heard “My name is mud”.

I didn’t actually collect a lot vinyl when I was younger. I had a bunch of Disneyland 45s, as well as the “Pete’s Dragon soundtrack” and “Mickey Mouse Disco” LPs. On the cooler side of things, I had an early 7″ of Human League’s “Don’t you want me”. I also had a copy Bangles’ “Different light” that I won in a contest and a really warped copy of The Cure’s “Mixed up” that I bought because I couldn’t find it on CD. But that was it. In 1993, I was moving from cassette tapes into compact discs and vinyl for me was already in the past. So I didn’t find much cause to wander into the famous shop that often drew members of The Ramones whenever they passed through the ’shwa, especially given that I lived in a town 15km away and didn’t often have access to my own wheels.

But on that day, I jumped on the GO bus into Oshawa on the hunt for a specific CD that I couldn’t find anywhere, a CD which I will not name today because one of its songs will surely appear a little later in this list. Of course, I found what I was looking for immediately, picked it up, and then, went back to the A section and perused the rest of the store’s compact disc wares. I found plenty else that I wanted to buy in the hour and a half that I tarried but the other CD I left the store with was Primus’s “Pork soda”.

It was a purchase that I made without having heard any of the songs from it beforehand. I had fallen hard for “Jerry was a race car driver” and “Tommy the cat” off their previous album, “Sailing the seas of cheese”** and I loved the claymation pig head on the album’s cover***. I actually chose to slip this CD into my discman rather than my other purchase for the GO bus ride home later that afternoon and after a brief ditty of an introduction, was met soundly by “My name is mud.”

“My name is Mud
Not to be confused with Bill or Jack or Pete or Dennis
My name is Mud and it’s always been”

A loud twang on a bass string serves as the wake up call. This is Les Claypool’s show after all. Then, he jumps right in with a punishing bass line that’ll have you jumping up and banging your head right along, no matter how much hair you have on your head. The first couple of riffs almost feel like a drum beat themselves but then, Herb Alexander jumps in to destroy his kit with a rhythm that merely shadows Claypool’s bass. Finally, Ler Lalonde adds some dirty guitar flourishes that augment the noise and serves as a dichotomy to claustrophobic white space. Dark and light, noisy and quiet, sharp and soft, it’s all waves, hypnotic and nauseating, a sea of flying bodies – hands, arms, heads, legs – all a sweaty mass of moshing.

I don’t know if Mike Shulga ever heard of Les Claypool and his band, but I can’t help but think he would’ve approved of their originality.

*Oshawa is the city where I was born and grew up for the first ten years of my life.

**I’ve already told the story on these pages about how I purchased a copy of “Sailing the seas of cheese” used in a store in Toronto before going to see New Model Army at Lee’s Palace and then, promptly misplacing the album, along with Buffalo Tom’s “Let me come over”, at Bathurst subway station after the show.

***Who else remembers the days of buying albums based the awesomeness of the album covers?

For the rest of the Best tunes of 1993 list, click here.