100 best covers: #65 Asobi Seksu “Then he kissed me”

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Asobi Seksu. The name may not ring any bells for you, which is a big shame. In a perfect world, it would have done. However, it was not to be.

Asobi Seksu was a New York-based band that had a rather fluid membership over the years, the only constants being the glue that held everything together: vocalist Yuki Chikudate and guitarist James Hanna. For me, this band was among the best and brightest that started the new shoegaze revival in the early 2000s, a revival that feels like it has gone on much longer than the original scene. I got into these guys back in 2006 with their wonderful sophomore release “Citrus”, falling in love with their Lush and MBV vibes, and voraciously consumed everything they produced thereafter. Unfortunately, they announced an indefinite hiatus back in 2013, a word they’ve kept, except for a one-off appearance opening for Slowdive in Boston in 2014 at that iconic band’s request. But who could say no to Slowdive, really?

Asobi Seksu released this apt cover of The Crystals’ 1963 hit song as a B-side for their non-album single “Stay awake” in 2007. Given my relatively limited exposure to the original, I think the cover is at least faithful to the spirit of Phil Spector’s production, albeit with perhaps thicker and fuzzier walls of sound and of course, Chikudate’s chiming vocals replacing the original R&B harmonies.

At a mere two minutes, though, this cover is like that oft-elusive and all-too-brief first kiss. Strange, timid, and awkward, but fully imbued with passion and sexual energy, and yes, questions of love. You’ve all been there. You know what I mean. The taste is more-ish, fleeting, just whetting the appetite for a bigger feast.

I’m not even going to ask the question because I don’t care about the answer. I’m going with the cover here. Repeat after me: Asobi Seksu. You’re welcome.

Cover:

The original:

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

100 best covers: #66 Lenny Kravitz “American woman”

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Music quiz aficionados would do well to check out the Sunday posts on fellow blogger Geoff’s blog, “1001 albums in 10 years”. As its title suggests, the blog’s normal programming involves its intrepid author sharing thoughts on the albums in the book, “1001 albums you must hear before you die”, as he tries to listen to each one within a ten year span. Over the past few years, he has added a fun, additional component in the form a quiz with five hints and chances to guess the artist of the week. Last week, said artist of the week was iconic Canadian rockers, The Guess Who, which I thought a bit fortuitous because it gave me a chance to plug his excellent work and at the same time, provide me a  lead into my next ‘100 best covers’ post.

“American woman” is one of the few tracks by The Guess Who whose songwriting credits are attributed to all of its members rather than just its principal songwriters, Randy Bachman and Burton Cummings. This is because the song was the result of an improvised jam during a soundcheck one night in Ontario, the original lyrics ad-libbed by Cummings and later edited, which the group was really ‘feeling’. It was seen by many at the time as an anti-Vietnam war song and an outsider’s view of the American approach to it but Cummings has maintained on many occasions that it is really about his preference for Canadian woman over those from our southern neighbours, a sentiment most likely a result of touring fatigue.

American musician, Lenny Kravitz covered this tune almost 30 years later, right at the height of his popularity, originally for the soundtrack of the second installment in the Austin Powers film series. His version was softer, slower, and mostly because of who he was, innately sexier than the original. I haven’t really been a fan of much of his work but this cover is an exception for me. A faithful homage to a classic, one that doesn’t try to outdo the original and knows its own limitations in its shadow. Both versions rock, sport incredible, though very different styles of vocals, and throw hammer down with guitars.

Thoughts or preferences? Always game to hear ’em.

Cover:

The original:

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

100 best covers: #67 The Sundays “Wild horses”

<< #68    |    #66 >>

I’m not really a huge Rolling Stones fan. However…

However, there are some of their tunes that I really like, mostly from their very early days. I purchased a copy of their compilation “Hot rocks 1964-1971” on cassette tape back when I was in high school and listened to it quite a bit on my Walkman. So I definitely recognized this cover by The Sundays when I first heard it. I distinctly remember being in the car, not far from home in Bowmanville, the town in which I spent my formative years. I was listening to the new music preview on CFNY on the car stereo and they were having some sort of cover song special. I particularly remember this fact because they also played another great cover song, one that will figure in later on this list so I won’t mention it here.

This cover by The Sundays was actually my introduction to the band. I really enjoyed the sound, which I would much, much later identify as dream pop, and thus, made a point of remembering their name. Still, it was a while before I made the connection between them and their big single, “Here’s where the story ends”, which I’d heard many times on the radio and now easily count as favourite by them. To this day, The Sundays are one of those bands that make me smile every time I hear them, even despite their often sad melodies.

Interestingly, their cover of The Rolling Stones’ “Wild horses” feels a bit more upbeat than the original, the acoustic strumming a bit more peppy than the sad lethargy and pining for home felt in Keith Richards’ electric accoutrements. Mick the balladeer was always enjoyable to me and on their original, he’s all very late night and tired, the mood slow burning and sobering, right to the bitter end, which closes up right around the six minute mark. The Sundays recorded their cover almost twenty years later and rather than a late night booze can, theirs evokes a vacuous chamber where all sound wavers and melts. All except for Harriet Wheeler’s vocals, which, instead, dance on a cloud, the quiet whispers and the plaintive and aching vocals, all call out into the wilderness, scream out to you for an embrace.

Do I prefer the cover or the original? Tough call, that one. Both are evocative of their time and place and energy. What do you think?

Cover:

The original:

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