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100 best covers: #59 Placebo “Bigmouth strikes again”

<< #60    |    #58 >>

One Sunday night in January, very shortly after New Year’s day in 1997, I ventured downtown Toronto to meet up with my friend Darrell from my Prose fiction workshop. I’m pretty sure the place was called Lion’s Bar and I am reasonably sure it was on College street somewhere near Kensington market but I now couldn’t tell you for sure. I remember the bar being in a basement and that it was a relatively small space but what I remember the most was that the music was awesome. Of course, that was why we were there.

The DJ that night was a friend of Darrell’s and I knew him, but only as a nodding acquaintance, mostly from a couple years of seeing him and requesting songs while he manned the decks on Saturday nights at one of York University’s college pubs. It was this same DJ that drove both Darrell and me back up to North York afterwards, long after last call, rather than subject us to the joys of the night bus. Once at his car, he handed us both promo copies of Catherine Wheel’s “Like cats and dogs” from his trunk and then played for us an advance copy James’s upcoming album “Whiplash” on his car stereo on the way home. But I am digressing here…

At some point that evening, I was on the dance floor taking a swig from my bottle of Labatt 50 just as whatever song it was that I was dancing to came to an end. It was replaced by a familiar guitar strum intro but one that was slightly edgier. Still, I placed it as “Bigmouth strikes again” and got back into dancing mode. By the time the vocals kicked in and instead of Morrissey’s plaintive warble, a Richard O’Brien-like sinister sneer chimed in, I knew that this was more than a different mix or take of the original Smiths track. And this brought a smile to my face, a smile that only widened and broke into outright laughter when the “hearing aid” lyric was modernized to “Walkman” and “Discman” for a bit of brazen hipness. This version was harder, noisier, and most definitely more glammed up than the original and that extra thirty seconds in length and increased tempo had this particular dancer slightly sweatier by the end. At its closing notes, I hurried over to the DJ to ask after the artist, which I repeated to myself over a number of times and even procured a pen to scrawl it on the inside of my cigarette pack because I no longer trusted my drunken brain to retain it.

Just over a year later, my ears pricked up when I heard the same band announced over the radio with a brand new song called “Pure morning”, which I loved immediately and this song ended up being a big hit for Placebo. I later came across the “Bigmouth strikes again” cover on the bonus disc that came with the deluxe edition of their 2003 album, “Sleeping with ghosts”, and I was immediately transported back to that very fun evening. And I experience the same sort of joy every time I hear this song now.

Is the Placebo cover better than The Smiths’ original? I can’t say that it is. But it’s probably just as fun to dance to.

Cover:

The original:

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

Categories
Vinyl

Vinyl love: Suede “Dog man star”

(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: Suede
Album Title: Dog man star
Year released: 1994
Year reissued: 2014
Details: 2 x 180 gram, gatefold sleeve

The skinny: Suede’s second album is an absolute classic and yet, I don’t listen to it nearly enough. Definitely not as often as I do spin their first and third records, both of which have already received the ‘Vinyl love’ treatment on these pages and are likely already due for a revisit. “Dog man star”, like many other excellent sophomore releases, was fraught with difficulties from the beginning. It is the last album to feature original guitarist, Bernard Butler, who departed acrimoniously before it was completed. Many are those who feel that he kept Brett Anderson in check and without him, Suede continued further from rock and into pop territory for their future records. Indeed, this one is an epic glam rock opera. The copy I have on my shelves was re-issued on two 180-gram discs by Demon Records in 2014, twenty years after the original album was released. I’ve read plenty of complaints about this particular pressing but it sounds better than the copy I had on compact disc back in the day so it works for me.

Standout track: “We are the pigs”

Categories
Tunes

Best tunes of 1992: #10 Suede “My insatiable one”

<< #11    |    #9 >>

There are certain bands who have been, at certain points in their career, so prolific that even their B-sides are phenomenal. Such is the case with London-based glam rockers, Suede (known as The London Suede in North America), and this is especially true of their early years. So it came as little surprise to me when I learned that “My insatiable one” was originally released as a B-side to Suede’s very first single, “The drowners”.

I first heard the song the year following this single’s release, when it was included on the soundtrack for the Mike Myers vehicle, “So I married an axe murderer”. Haven’t heard of it? I wouldn’t be at all surprised. I enjoyed it at the time but really, the best thing about it is Myers’ secondary role in the film as his protagonist’s father, complete with the same outrageous Scottish accent he later reused in SNL sketches (“If it’s nae Scottish, it’s crrrrrrap”) and for the “Austin Powers” villain, Fat Bastard.

Oh yeah, sorry, the soundtrack for the film was fantastic too. The La’s original classic, “There she goes”, as well as a cover of it by The Boo Radleys, served as a theme of sorts for the film. And the soundtrack also included Ned’s Atomic Dustbin covering a Charlene pop song, Big Audio Dynamite II’s amazing single, “Rush”, a little early 90s hit called “Two princes” by the Spin Doctors, and of course, Suede’s “My insatiable one”.

The boys show here (on a B-side) why they were such a hot and exciting item back in those early days and why they are considered one of the bands that kickstarted the BritPop movement. Bernard Butler’s athletic and aggressive guitar playing is more restrained on this tune but still very much present, arpeggiating all over the place, climbing up and down the walls, roaring like a lion, while Brett Anderson prances about the stage, vocals operatic and theatrical, playing fey and falsetto, and well, daring, his listeners come along with him for the ride.

“Oh he is gone, he’s my insatiable one.”

The fact that Brett was singing about a “he” being his “insatiable one” raised a few eyebrows at the time and he riled things up even further by claiming at times that the song was about anal sex. Knowing Anderson, though, I would tend to believe his other explanation, the one that posits that he wrote it about himself from Justine Frischmann’s (whom many of you might remember as the frontwoman of Elastica and erstwhile girlfriend of Damon Albarn, but who got her start with Suede and as Anderson’s girlfriend) point of view.

Either way, this is a great tune. A B-side that plays as a single that should’ve been a hit kind of great tune.

For the rest of the Best tunes of 1992 list, click here.