Sunday, June 18, 2006

Jukebox Juicebox #19 - Karaoke Kings

Various “Q Covered - Best Of 86/06”

Crudely speaking, the cover version is a bit like playing Russian Roulette: you never know if you’re going to get a misfire or be blown away. For every radical reworking, or serendipitous introduction to a great artist by way of the tribute, there has been a major crime committed against music. Q Covered, a cover-mounted freebie compilation to celebrate Q Magazine’s 20th anniversary in May, provides ample example of all of the above across it’s fourteen tracks. Franz Ferdinand kick off proceedings with a spirited version of Gwen Stefani’s What You Waiting For? that effortlessly slips in a blast of Billy Idol’s White Wedding at the song’s close. Proving that rock is again the new pop, Sugababes’ take on Arctic Monkeys’ I Bet You Look Good On The Dancefloor is more club-friendly but less convincing than the original. By and large, the subsequent tracks continue to be largely faithful to their source, with only The Flaming Lips and Nick Cave attempting to take the songs in a different direction. The former’s orchestral reprise of Kylie’s Can’t Get You Out Of My Head is ironically forgettable, but Cave’s reimagining of Pulp’s Disco 2000 becomes entirely his own. Elsewhere, Jack Johnson’s updated lyrical respin of Three Is The Magic Number is undermined by bland delivery, whilst Corinne Bailey Rae and Jamie Cullum provide technically accomplished but inevitably inferior versions of Björk and Jeff Buckley respectively. Paul Anka’s ill-advised swing version of Oasis’ Wonderwall enables the listener to consider Mike Flowers’ Pops’ previous lounge (piss)take in a more positive light, if nothing else. Unsurprisingly, the biggest musical aberration is committed by the terminally dull Travis. Thankfully, as the album’s closing song, it’s easy to skip on the CD player. Incredibly, the worthy Scots manage to out-bland Britney Spears with their ‘hilarious’ take on her breakthrough hit …Baby One More Time. Q Covered does have some other high points, however, in the trio of covers by Elbow, Richard Hawley and Editors. Elbow’s unusual choice - August And September, a track from The The’s 1989 album Mind Bomb – was in fact recorded for an abortive 2002 EP release from the latter’s 45 RPM singles collection. Whilst Guy Garvey and co. don’t quite match the emotional intensity of Matt Johnson’s original version, it’s inclusion here deservedly rescues a fine song from obscurity. Q Covered is probably not worth shelling out good money for on eBay, but at least half of the tracks warrant a listen, if you can find them on the internet.

Tracklisting: 1. Franz Ferdinand: What You Waiting For? / White Wedding reprise [cover of Gwen Stefani / Billy Idol] / 2. Sugababes: I Bet You Look Good On The Dancefloor [cover of Arctic Monkeys] / 3. The Flaming Lips: Can’t Get You Out Of My Head [cover of Kylie Minogue] / 4. Corinne Bailey Rae: Venus As A Boy [cover of Björk] / 5. Elbow: August And September [cover of The The] / 6. Richard Hawley: Some Candy Talking [cover of The Jesus & Mary Chain] / 7. Editors: Orange Crush [cover of R.E.M.] / 8. Delays: The Sun Always Shines On TV [cover of A-ha] / 9. Jack Johnson: The 3 R’s (Three Is The Magic Number) [cover of Robert Dorough] / 10. Paul Anka: Wonderwall [cover of Oasis] / 11. Jamie Cullum: Lover, You Should’ve Come Over [cover of Jeff Buckley] / 12. Nick Cave: Disco 2000 [cover of Pulp] / 13. The Magic Numbers: There Is A Light That Never Goes Out [cover of The Smiths] (see
Jukebox Juicebox #9) / 14. Travis: …Baby One More Time [cover of Britney Spears]

Whilst you’re surfing, here are some other recommendations:

1) Billie Ray Martin This Town Ain’t Big Enough For The Both Of Us
I was hoping to find Billie’s wonderfully creepy cover of Throbbing Gristle’s Persuasion from the 1990’s, but no joy. This is a demo intended for a Sparks tribute album and Ms Martin matches the Mael brothers inch for eccentric inch, not least for her rather fetching lisp!
2) Ergo Phizmiz feat. Martha Moopette
Get Ur Freak On
He’s been described as ‘a musical equivalent to Chris Morris’ and this is not a bad summation, with a track even more unsettling than the Missy ‘Misdemeanour’ Elliott version. You can also listen to radically different takes on Gwen Stefani, Lauryn Hill, Destiny’s Child, Kelis, as well as The Velvet Underground’s White Light / White Heat album in full.
3) Idha with Andy Bell
Wish You Were Here
Before you ask, it’s the Andy Bell of Oasis/Ride ‘fame’, not the Erasure front man, in case you were expecting a Scissor Sisters-style glam-disco cover of the Pink Floyd classic. Instead, Bell’s adds guitar to wife Idha’s gentle delivery, similar to her downbeat cover of Primal Scream’s I’m Losing More Than I’ll Ever Have (aka Loaded).
4) The King’s Singers
Life On Mars
Anyone who watched family ‘variety’ TV shows in the 1970s will shudder at the mention of this singing group. However, this is firm proof that G4 weren’t the first besuited blokes with cheesy grins and tight harmonies to tackle the Bowie classic.
5) Laibach
Geburt Einer Nation (aka One Vision) (sample only)
Laibach have covered Opus, The Rolling Stones, Europe, Edwin Starr, Jesus Christ Superstar, even The Beatles’ Let It Be album in it’s entirety. This version of the Queen song takes the song to another level. Jahwohl!
6) The Leather Nun
Gimme! Gimme! Gimme! (A Man After Midnight)
The Leather Nun seemingly regretted recording it and never played the song live. Unsurprisingly, Abba didn’t like it, either. Despite this, their guitar laden version of this disco classic is one of the Leather Nun’s finest moments.
7) Leila
Do You Got Time (aka Let The Music Play)
Shannon’s 1980’s electropop classic becomes slightly unhinged thanks to Leila Arab’s unsettling electronica underscore. Check out Leila’s similarly edgy mash-ups featuring Aaliyah and Michael Jackson on her website.
8) Nouvelle Vague
Fade To Grey
Their previous album introduced us to their low-key, acoustic takes on the likes of The Undertones, The Sisters Of Mercy, Joy Division, The Dead Kennedys and The Clash. New album Bande A Part continues in the same vein – this track is accompanied by reimaginings of Echo and the Bunnymen, Blancmange, Lords Of The New Church and even Bauhaus’ seminal goth classic Bela Lugosi’s Dead.
9) Pony Club
Driving Home For Christmas
Whilst musically faithful to it’s source, Mark Cullen’s vocal delivery imbues Chris Rea’s seasonal classic with a growing sense of dread. Somehow, I sense it’s not because the turkey will have been overcooked again.
10) Pop Will Eat Itself
Rock A Hula Baby (sample only)
This originally appeared on a largely crap 1990 NME compilation called The Last Temptation Of Elvis. The King would probably have spun in his grave a few times on hearing this, though mainly due to the infectious (but now overly familiar) breakbeat.
11) Solex
Elisabeth Esselink has been producing lo-fi gems since the late 1990s. Her take on The Stooges’ classic makes the narrator seem like they’re trying to stir up a revolution in a locked, empty room!
12) The Times
Lundi Bleu (aka Blue Monday)
Ed Ball drops the beats per minute and produces a rumbling, bass-heavy monster of a track, sung in French. The CD single featured alternate versions of this New Order classic in German, Spanish and Japanese. Seek out the definitive 10-minute original album version on Pure, which throws in samples from A Clockwork Orange for good measure.

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