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Tunes

100 best covers: #54 Gene “Town called Malice”

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During my fourth year at York University, there was a professor’s strike that stretched from March until May, putting a number of students’ academic years and graduation plans at risk. I was on a five year plan in a four year program, so it was no issue to me in that sense. Really, it just lengthened my year some. However, it did have the added benefit of lulling me into boredom in early spring and got me out searching for a summer job earlier than I would’ve done otherwise. I ended up finding a position in a tool rental shop, a job that I surprisingly fell in love with, that kept me gainfully employed for the remainder of my university studies, and turned into my first post-graduation full-time job.

I was trained by a guy named Angelo that was probably a few years older than myself but spending quite a bit of time together in the store, we grew into a sort of friendship. He also really liked music and though he favoured what I considered to be classic rock, he was always very open to different sounds and exploring new bands. In fact, he always open to all sorts of new ideas and new experiences and we had a lot of great conversations. We have obviously lost touch, since I left the tool rental company and Toronto over two decades ago, but I still have the copy of “The very best of The Jam” CD he purchased for my birthday on behalf of him and our other co-worker, Marco.

We must’ve talked about the British punk-rock trio at some point during that summer of 1997 but I’m sure I wasn’t able to contribute much at the time, perhaps just that Paul Weller was their lead singer and that my friend Andrew Rodriguez was a big fan. The gift* was super appreciated, though, and I spent quite a bit of time with the disc that fall, becoming a convert of the group in the process. So a couple of years later when a tribute album called “Fire & skill” was released, I didn’t hesitate to pick it up. Of course, it didn’t hurt that it featured covers by a bunch of Britpop survivors, like Reef, Heavy Stereo, a song by each of Oasis’s Gallagher brothers (Liam working with Ocean Colour Scene’s Steve Cradock), and Gene.

Long time fans and influenced by The Jam, Gene chose for their entry on this compilation a faithful cover of “Town called malice”, which, incidentally, was one of the few songs I knew of The Jam before hearing the aforementioned compilation. The original appeared on The Jam’s sixth and final studio album, “The gift”, and is three minute northern soul groove wrapped around Paul Weller’s teenaged kicks around his hometown and man, does that rhythm section get you dancing. The cover is slightly fuller sounding, with raunchier guitars, and it’s fun, Martin Rossiter’s vocals always sounding a bit on the side of Morrissey and has you wondering what The Smiths might have done with this song. And though with the extended moments and cleaner production, it doesn’t quite feel as immediate and as honest as the original, it’s still great.

Indeed, I like both versions a lot (and don’t get me wrong, I do love me some Gene) but I’m going with The Jam on this battle.

Cover:

The original:

*Pardon the pun

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

Categories
Vinyl

Vinyl love: Various artists “Tiny Changes: A Celebration Of Frightened Rabbit’s ‘The Midnight Organ Fight'”

(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: Various artists
Album Title: Tiny Changes: A Celebration Of Frightened Rabbit’s ‘The Midnight Organ Fight’
Year released: 2019
Details: Double LP, 24 page booklet

The skinny: Back in the middle of January, I went on a bit of a Frightened Rabbit kick, posting photos from the one time I saw them live in 2013, as well as ‘Vinyl love’ instalments for the albums “The midnight organ fight”, “Pedestrian verse”, and “Painting of a panic attack”, and all of this in the span of a week. However, I waited until today, what is widely-acknowledged as the second anniversary of frontman Scott Hutchison’s death, to post this, the only other Frightened Rabbit-related vinyl in my collection (for now). This tribute to “The midnight organ fight” was in the works before Hutchison’s suicide, the recording of the album’s tunes by friends of the band were already mostly recorded to celebrate the album’s 10th anniversary, but the remaining band members decided to refocus its release after the fact. They named it for the mental health charity launched in honour of Hutchison and donated a portion of the album’s sales to it as well. The album includes covers by Death Cab for Cutie’s Ben Gibbard, Canadian indie rockers Wintersleep, fellow Scots The Twilight Sad, dream-poppers Daughter, and the lovely one below by Julien Baker. This heavyweight double-LP pressing includes a 24-page booklet filled with words and memories supplied by other members of Frightened Rabbit and by the artists that performed the covers (a few of these are shown above). And reading these really hits you hard and you can’t escape the feeling that we’ve lost a great songwriter. We miss you Scott.

Standout track: “The modern leper” as covered by Julien Baker

Categories
Tunes

100 best covers: #71 Pixies “I can’t forget”

<< #72    |    #70 >>

Leonard Cohen was a great songwriter. He was a poet that wrote poems and those poems became songs when he decided to sing them, instead of just read them aloud.

Of course, when you write excellent songs, you’ll have numerous other excellent bands and solo artists lining up to cover your work. And some of them might even transcend your original versions in popularity and commercial success. Such as it is with Leonard Cohen, who has been covered many times over, and even had just the one of his songs covered thousands of times (I’m sure you can guess of which song I speak). If you ask my wife, though, she’ll tell you that Mr. Cohen is tops on the list of artists that should never be covered and that no one can come close to touching his versions. Conversely, my friend Tim has said to me on more than one occasion that he likes Leonard Cohen’s songs, but only when someone else performs them.

And I’m pretty near certain that these words were first uttered by him whilst listening to the 1991 tribute album, “I’m your fan”. This excellent 18-song compilation was put together French music magazine, “Les Inrockuptibles”. The album’s title is a play on Cohen’s 1988 album, “I’m your man”, and its track listing included varied versions of Cohen tunes by artists such as Echo & The Bunnymen’s Ian McCulloch, House of Love, Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds, Lloyd Cole, John Cale, James, R.E.M., and of course, this excellent cover by the Pixies.

Recorded in the same year as “Trompe le monde”, their final album before dissolution, the Pixies’ version of “I can’t forget” was unsurprisingly more upbeat and hard-hitting than the original. Indeed, it could almost be mistaken for one of their own tunes, if it had only been a bit more weird and off-kilter. Cohen’s original was recorded a mere three years earlier for the aforementioned album, “I’m your man”, and while all of its songs were great – classics now – it took me a while to get over its production and instrumentation, which were synth heavy and definitely of their time and place.

Sorry Victoria. I think I’d take the heavy guitars, faster rhythm, and Frank Black’s yelp and Kim Deal’s chiming backup over the easier listening marimba synth-programmed hangover, even if it does include Cohen’s inimitable, rich sing-speak vocals.

What about you? What are your thoughts?

Cover:

The original:

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