100 best covers: #77 The Polyphonic Spree “Lithium”

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Some of you might remember that I started off the countdown of my favourite songs of 1991 with a post on Nirvana’s “Smells like teen spirit”. I bestowed upon it an honourable mention rather than ranking it in the list and explained how Nirvana excited me at first, much like it did everyone else, but how I quickly became oversaturated with the mere mention of them. It took many years before I could appreciate the band and I think swearing off of commercial radio went a long way towards getting me to this place. All that being said, there were a handful of songs from their catalogue that didn’t have me running screaming, even back then, and “Lithium” was one of them.

Ten or fifteen years after the release of “Nevermind”, my wife and I and another couple of friends went to see David Bowie on his “Reality” tour. We walked into Scotiabank Place (or whatever it was called at that time) to find our seats during the opening band and they were quite the sight, all active and dancing and gesturing in white flowing robes and so many of them, they filled the stage. It was one of the few concerts that I didn’t try to get a grasp on the opening act in advance but they made such an impact on all of us that I hit the internet the next day to investigate. I learned that The Polyphonic Spree were a symphonic rock collective orchestrated by Tim DeLaughter after the dissolution of his 90s alt-rock band Tripping Daisy (“I got a girl”). I checked out their debut and loved it but still distrusted them a bit, given their garb, almost impervious sunshine, and cult-like feel. My friend Tim’s assessment, after playing them for him, was that they sounded good but that they were ‘too damned happy’.

Between the releases of their second and third albums, The Polyphonic Spree released an EP called “The wait” that included three covers amongst its five songs. It’s likely obvious by now that one of these was the subject of this post, a cover of Nirvana’s “Lithium”, and well, I love it.

The muscular guitar intro from the original is turned into the plinkety-plink of piano keys. Kurt’s hurting angst becomes Tim’s unending hopefulness and he’s joined by a choir of angels. Of course, both versions turn it up at the chorus, the original, a raging mosh pit and the cover is a symphony gone psycho. Fellow blogger, Steve for the deaf, in his post on this very same cover, described it as “like wearing [Guernica] as a T-Shirt because you like horses”, which I found hilarious and more than a little apt. Indeed, Steve’s comparison reminded me of the gen-x parents I saw out one night who had dressed their toddler in a onesie that featured the iconic image of Che Guevara and the words: “I don’t even know who this is”.

I find it’s usually best not to take ourselves too seriously. What are your thoughts? Good fun? Or is it too soon?

The cover:

The original:

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

Best tunes of 1991: #3 Primal Scream “Loaded”

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“Just what is it that you want to do?”

“Well, we wanna be free, we wanna be free to do what we wanna do
And we wanna get loaded and we wanna have a good time
And that’s what we’re gonna do.”

These are the lines, sampled from the film “The wild angels”, that kickstart a revolution.

Prior to this song and the album on which it appears, Primal Scream were just another holdover from the C86 scene that was quickly losing steam. The only discerning difference being that they were led by the former drummer of The Jesus and Mary Chain. Bobby Gillespie and his group approached DJ Andrew Weatherall to remix one of the songs from their self-titled sophomore album, a relatively forgettable track called, “I’m losing more than I’ll ever have”. After two aborted attempts, he came up with what we now know as that hit single and dance floor anthem “Loaded”. Weatherall’s remix essentially remade Primal Scream into a bunch of neo-hippies in the acid house age and set a template for the album that would be “Screamadelica”.

The video for this single would be my introduction to the band. Like so many other songs on this list, I first saw it on CityLimits. But this was one I didn’t record myself but my friend Elliott had caught. We watched it together over and over again, our minds literally blown.

The track is the embodiment of bombast, throwing together sampled horn blares, big bass and drums, gospel choirs and slippery bass lines, piano flourishes and funky guitars and granola crunching bongos, and shaking it all up in a gigantic mixing bowl. Yet somehow it all works as a song for closing your eyes and letting loose, for wiggling and waggling your fingers in front of your eyes and losing yourself in the neon trails, for losing control of all your bodily functions and not caring in the least. A song to replay over and over again as you write incoherent words in a drunken frenzy.

Whoops. Did I just write those words out loud?

No matter. We just wanna get loaded and we wanna have a good time.

For the rest of the Best tunes of 1991 list, click here.

Playlist: New tunes from 2019, part one

I guess it was just a matter of time before playlists became a thing on this blog. The only surprise to me is that it took me this long to break down and post a Spotify playlist to these pages. And I’m already imagining this won’t be the last. Hence, the “part one” adjunct at the end the title above.

These here twenty-five songs are all from albums that have been released in the first three months of 2019 and are amongst my faves from said albums. Indeed, these are the songs that have soundtracked a very long winter up here in Canada’s capital, making my morning and afternoon commutes to and from work that much more bearable.

Highlights include:

      • “Not so proud”, track five off the self-titled debut album by Tallies, a four-piece dream pop outfit from Toronto, Ontario, Canada
      • A track (“Dylan Thomas”) by the surprise collaboration between Conor Oberst and Phoebe Bridgers, from the album titled “Better Oblivion Community Center”
      • “Motor city steel”, one of the few highlights off an otherwise disappointing outing from Dandy Warhols, an alternative rock favourite in my books
      • “First world problems”, a song I wanted to hate off Stone Roses’ frontman, Ian Brown’s latest solo effort because its title is oh so millennial… but I just can’t help myself…
      • Reviews have been decidedly mixed for the debut album by (don’t call us a) supergroup Piroshka, who include ex-members of Lush, Moose, Modern English, and Elastica, but I love the single “Everlastingly yours”
      • “Tough enough” by Ex Hex is so so so 1980s in a Go-gos, Bangles, and Pat Benatar kind of way

For those who don’t use Spotify or if the embedded playlist below doesn’t work for you, here is the entire playlist:

    1. “Not so proud” Tallies (from the album Tallies)
    2. “About the light” Steve Mason (from the album About the light)
    3. “Her cold cold heart” Night Beats (from the album Myth of a man)
    4. “[10 good reasons for modern drugs]” The Twilight Sad (from the album It won’t be like this all the time)
    5. “Seventeen” Sharon Van Etten (from the album Remind me tomorrow)
    6. “Death in midsummer” Deerhunter (from the album Why hasn’t everything already disappeared?)
    7. “Dylan Thomas” Better Oblivion Community Center (from the album Better Oblivion Community Center)
    8. “Motor city steel” The Dandy Warhols (from the album Why you so crazy)
    9. “Sequence one” TOY (from the album Happy in the hollow)
    10. “Spiked flower” Swervedriver (from the album Future ruins)
    11. “Mexican dress” Blood Red Shoes (from the album Get tragic)
    12. “Five on it” Spielbergs (from the album This is not the end)
    13. “First world problems” Ian Brown (from the album Ripples)
    14. “Gallipoli” Beirut (from the album Gallipoli)
    15. “Bellyache” Yak (from the album Pursuit of momentary happiness)
    16. “Everlastingly yours” Piroshka (from the album Brickbat)
    17. “Until the fire” Ladytron (from the album Ladytron)
    18. “Jonatan” Desperate Journalist (from the album In search of the miraculous)
    19. “Pressure to party” Julia Jacklin (from the album Crushing)
    20. “One last night on this earth” Sundara Karma (from the album Ulfila’s alphabet)
    21. “Exits” Foals (from the album Everything not saved will be lost, part 1)
    22. “Woman” Karen O and Danger Mouse (from the album Lux Prima)
    23. “Tough enough” Ex Hex (from the album It’s real)
    24. “Look at you now” Sleeper (from the album The modern age)
    25. “Wasted youth” Jenny Lewis (from the album On the line)

Enjoy.



For those of you who are on Spotify, feel free to look me up. My user name is “jprobichaud911”.