Saturday, June 23, 2007

Jukebox Juicebox #32

The White Stripes “Rag And Bone / Icky Thump” (2007)
I have this strange connection with certain bands, in that I like their songs that I hear, read their interviews, articles and reviews with interest and yet don’t get around to actually buying any of their records. Perversely, I’ll often pick up records that I’ve never heard by bands I know little or nothing about, often for the flimsiest of reasons, but that’s a whole other story. So, this happens to be the first White Stripes I’ve bought, even though I’ve been a ‘fan’ since I saw the video for Fell In Love With A Girl donkeys years ago. I haven’t even got around to downloading anything by them; the best my iPod can muster are mash-ups of 7 Nation Army and The Doorbell Song, pairing the duo with Alter Ego and Jay-Z respectively. In fact, the impetus for getting this record without having heard it was that part one – the one-sided, etched red vinyl 7” of Rag And Bone – was a giveaway with the 9 Jun issue of NME. Icky Thump was released the following week, seven days before the album of the same name. Rag And Bone is my favourite of the three songs here, mainly for the subject matter, the ‘in character’ dialogue between Jack and Meg that bridges each verse and a guitar hook that sounds uncannily like Mud’s 1973 smash Tiger Feet. In fact, there’s a 1970s (by way of the 1950s) feel pervading this EP, the antiquated guitar licks and muffled rhythms evoking the ghosts of blues and rock ‘n’ roll. Yet at the same time, The White Stripes continue to sound fresh and exciting. Icky Thump reminds me of Led Zeppelin of all things, with Jack’s vocals recalling Robert Plant, some mighty Jimmy Page-esque riffs and a naggingly insistent keyboard and drum combo. Exclusive B-side Baby Brother is unabashed blues rock, the reference point here being Screamin’ Jay Hawkins and The Cramps. It’s short and sweet but lacks the inventiveness of the previous two songs.

Tracklisting [2 x 7”]: 1. Rag And Bone / 2. Icky Thump / 3. Baby Brother

LCD Soundsystem “All My Friends” (2007)
The idea of getting artists to cover rather than remix your songs for a single release is nothing new: Pulp, Elvis Costello & The Attractions, The The, even Carter The Unstoppable Sex Machine have done this in the past. However, it’s still a relatively unusual move and the choice of artists is always interesting. It’s common knowledge that James Murphy, aka LCD Soundsystem, knows his stuff when it comes to music and this is reflected in the artists covering All My Friends, one of the stand-out tracks from recent album Sound Of Silver. One is a veteran musician who has enjoyed a renaissance in the past few years, the other one of the current leading lights on the retro (old but) New Wave scene. John Cale is the revelation here, somehow managing to make his cover, not LCD Soundsystem’s, sound like the original version. Cale is in fine form vocally and the faithful but faltering reproduction of the song’s one note keyboard riff on a guitar is incredibly effective. Despite matching the original’s duration of seven and a half minutes, it doesn’t feel nearly long enough…! Franz Ferdinand’s version is a tad shorter, with a guitar hook that oddly enough recalls Wish I Was Skinny by late, lamented 1990s indie band The Boo Radleys. Producer Erol Alkan clearly has an ear for the mosh pit as well as the dancefloor and ensures that the song’s frequent peaks are suitably rousing. Alex Kapranos’ distinctive vocals carry much of the song, though the climatic group chorus does give the impression that the band have lost their sense of direction and aren’t quite sure how to wrap up the song. On the flip side of each 7” single are the original LCD Soundsystem takes: you’re probably familiar with the album version by now; there’s also an edit, clocking in at just under six minutes. The latter cuts the lengthy repetitive keyboard intro, but is otherwise identical and therefore slightly redundant. Make no mistake though, this is a brilliant single – go for the 7” package, not only for the John Cale version which is only available here, but also for the ultra heavyweight vinyl – you can not only hear the quality, you can feel it!

Tracklisting [2 x 7”]: 1. All My Friends (john cale version) / 2. (album version) / 3. (franz ferdinand version) / 4. (edit)

James Yorkston “Woozy With Cider” (2007)
I stumbled across the Jon Hopkins remix of Woozy With Cider whilst surfing the net. It was enough to encourage me to make the short hop to eBay, where copies of this promo CD are currently doing the rounds (the official releases are limited to 7” and 12” vinyl only). Jon Hopkins’ gentle, piano-led take remains the standout, complementing Yorkston’s dry, self-deprecating, spoken word vocal and surpassing the (still very good) original version. Steve Mason, aka King Biscuit Time, doesn’t mess too much with the blueprint, introducing some keyboard chords and vocal effects, whilst Kode9 adopts a similar approach though reduces the lyrics to little more than the odd refrain. Quiet Village, which includes Matt Edwards aka Radio Slave, offer up an effective ambient dub mix that unfurls to nearly ten minutes. My second favourite mix of Woozy With Cider has to be by the intriguingly named Dusty Cabinets, a brooding menace underpinning Yorkston’s narrative on this dark dancefloor version. Bonus 7” B-side Sunday Jacket is a mellow, acoustic number but relatively unmemorable. However, mixes/tracks 2, 3 and 5 alone make tracking down the 12” or CD worth your while.

Tracklisting: 1. Woozy With Cider (original version) / 2. (king biscuit time remix) / 3. (dusty cabinets remix) / 4. (quiet village remix) / 5. (jon hopkins remix) / 6. Sunday Jacket (with The Big Eyes Family Players) / 7. Woozy With Cider (kode9 remix)

Paul Hartnoll featuring Robert Smith “Please” (2007)
I almost overlooked this in my local Virgin Megastore which given the limited number of CD singles on sale these days is saying something. Behind the nondescript cover are a trio of mixes of the title track featuring veteran miserablist and The Cure frontman Robert Smith. To be honest, neither the lyrics nor the mixes really inspire. Statik’s downtown, downtempo and downbeat remix unfortunately accentuates the whiney qualities of both Smith and backing vocalist Lianne Hall's vocals, which is not good. KGB transform the song so that it sounds like it’s been drawn from The Cure’s back catalogue, which at least is an interesting approach. As for the original mix of Please and exclusive ‘B-side’ Old School Tie, they unashamedly sound like outtakes from Orbital’s final album that Hartnoll just couldn’t bear to throw away. Whilst recycling is a good thing, it’s less justifiable when applied to largely forgettable variations of EP tracks from the last century. The mix to seek out isn’t included on this CD, but should still be easily available for download. Hartnoll’s own Remember 1992 Mix also sounds like old school Orbital but thankfully of the uptempo, crowd pleasing variety. The trademark chunky chords and pulsing beats are present and correct, whilst Smith and Hall's vocals are split, providing a more successful ‘call and response’ dynamic. On the whole, Please is a disappointment that, despite the fusion of two great talents, fails to capitalise on either’s strengths.

Tracklisting: 1. Please (original version) / 2. Old School Tie / 3. Please (statik remix) / 4. Please (kgb remix)

Related websites:
The White Stripes
LCD Soundsystem
Sounds Like Silver - LCD Soundsystem Remixed
James Yorkston
Paul Hartnoll

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