‘Like A Virgin’ by Madonna covered by Teenage Fanclub – Magnificent Cover Version No.34

Teenage Fanclub’s goofy cover of Like A Virgin is a joy. The sunny pop of this classic from Madonna’s early-period fits in perfectly with TFC’s own brand of uplifting love songs. Naturally, they play it with a fuzzed-up, shambolic, jangle but otherwise it’s pretty faithful. Weirdly, this quintessential Madonna track could be mistaken for a Teenage Fanclub composition, if only there was anyone on the planet who hadn’t heard the original.

Like A Virgin is the clear highlight on Teenage Fanclub’s understandably maligned 1991 album The King. There were rumours that The King was a quick way for the band to  fulfil a contract obligation with the label Matador, but the truth is it was a youthful joke that got out of hand. Norman Blake remembers the band saying, “Let’s make a LP overnight. We’ll just improvise some songs and do some covers and cobble it all together”. Creation boss Alan McGee liked the idea and his label pressed 20,000 copies of it before deleting it the same day. Truthfully, it’s one for big Fannies fans only.

Of course one of the main reasons there are plenty of big Fannies fans around is their next album, Bandwagonesque, released later the same year. It was a great record and a huge hit for the band. It became one of the essential albums of 1991, a year that saw more than its fair share of essential albums, with Nevermind, Loveless and Screamadelica among the other timeless classics to come out.

BandwagonesqueCoverArt

I have a confession. I didn’t buy Bandwagonesque until a few years after it came out. This is because I was still at school in 1991 and had a limited budget for record purchases. Consequently my record collection at that time was made up of a few, carefully selected full-price purchases, birthday/Christmas presents, occasional finds from second hand shops and stuff from out of sale bins in Woolworths, HMV and Our Price, supplemented with tapes recorded from friends. It was more a cobbled together mish-mash of gems and disappointments than a carefully curated expression of my musical self, but I loved it and cherished it. Much as I liked Teenage Fanclub, I had to wait to acquire their breakthrough album.

I waited a lot longer to acquire a Madonna album. I got The Immaculate Collection on CD around 2000 – looking over my shoulder furtively on the way to the checkout for fear of being spotted by anyone I knew. I bought it for reasons of nostalgia and also for having something I could stick on if my sister ever visited me. I quite like Into The Groove and Like A Prayer. Much prefer the Teenage Fanclub version of Like A Virgin though.


Teenage Fanclub have released quite a few other covers. These include versions of some of my favourite songs of all time; The Velvet Underground’s Who Loves The Sun, Pixies’ Here Comes Your Man, The Beatles’ The Ballad of John and Yoko and Nirvana’s About A Girl, which is particular excellent. The other cover on The King is Pink Floyd’s Interstellar Overdrive. It’s not great.

‘Love Buzz’ by Shocking Blue covered by Nirvana – Magnificent Cover Version No.11

‘Judgment Night’ Soundtrack – Rap Rock’s last stand

‘Different Drum’ by Linda Ronstadt, covered by The Lemonheads – Magnificent Cover Version No. 27

 

 

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Trashed! ‘Disintegration’ by The Cure

Disintegration is The Cure’s highest-selling album and the one that saw them cement their place as an arena rock band, in the UK, Europe, America and Japan, at a time when that was still a huge achievement for an ‘alternative’ rock band. In terms of popularity, the album represents the peak of The Cure’s career, after more than a decade and seven previous albums of atmospheric, bittersweet, dark and joyous music.

In addition to its commercial success Disintegration was ecstatically received by critics. It was Melody Maker’s ‘Album of the Year’ in 1989, while Q listed it as the 17th best album of the ’80s. It made it on to both the US and German editions of Rolling Stone’s “500 Greatest Albums of All Time” in 2003. Pitchfork says that “Disintegration stands unquestionably as Robert Smith’s magnum opus”.

The 3 million+ copies of Disintegration sold worldwide mean that it’s certified ‘Gold’ across Europe and ‘Platinum’ in America. It also spawned four successful singles – Lullaby, Lovesong, Pictures of You and Fascination Street – which brought the band unprecedented levels of airplay and attention.

With Disintegration The Cure pulled off that rarest of tricks; producing an album that finds huge mainstream, commercial and critical success without alienating their original fans.

But of course, not everybody likes it. And some of those who don’t have been good enough to write Amazon reviews warning potential buyers to tread carefully before spending £5.32 on a CD.

There are not enough words to describe how awful the complete waste of time called “Disintegration” really is. Horrible, disgusting, nasty, wretched, and atrocious doesn’t even begin to describe the listening experience.”

That’s the considered opinion of JX, as expressed in a 2004 review titled “An Epic Pity Party”JX continues:

“Asking me to listen to the Cure or U2 is like asking me whether I would like to be shot in the gut or kneecaps.”

JX also reckons:

“They add complex melodies just to show how pretentious they are.”

Really? Is that why those melodies are there? To show how pretentious they are? I’d always thought they were part of the music in some way.

DPG is also unimpressed, heading his/her review “Garbage” before explaining:

“The Cure were best when they did fun pop songs, like in the 80s and early 90s!”

Fair enough…

“Pop songs are what gets played on radio, and the radio is the only sure sign of what’s good in music.”

Wait. What? “The only sure sign”? That doesn’t seem right. I heard Nickelback on the radio once…

“Obviously this album doesn’t get played on the radio.”

Ah, OK. DPG has subtly implied that Disintegration is no good because it doesn’t get played on the radio. This seems like a flawed argument, because a) “what’s good in music” is entirely subjective, b) it fails to take into account the commercial pressures on radio stations which restrict the variety of music that they are able to broadcast, and c) the singles from Disintegration got a shitload of airplay.

So DPG fluffed that argument. Maybe he/she will have more luck when discussing mental health issues:

“Smith’s mopey vocals sound so much better when he’s in a good mood. And why wouldn’t the guy be in a good mood? HE MAKES MILLIONS OF DOLLARS!!”

Nope, DPG fluffed that argument too.

Despite awarding Disintegration three stars, JM also finds the album a bit of a downer:

“so depressing it’s hard to take for more than 20 minutes.”

Conversely, MDG describes the album as “Carnival Music”, adding that in his opinion it “Sounds like a carousel; droning around and around”.

Meanwhile, BS calls the album “puzzlingly popular” and says that on it Robert Smith’s songwriting is “at an all-time low”. The review concludes with the statement, “Smith never had the juice for a long term career in my opinion”. Now, BS wrote this is May 2000, by which time Smith had released 11 studio albums with The Cure over the course of nearly a quarter of a century. Eighteen years later, The Cure are still going, and have slipped out another couple of well-received albums, so maybe Bob did have the “juice” after all.

BS gives his review the title “Overlong and dull”, and he’s not the only reviewer to criticise Disintegration for being too long. None is more vehement in this criticism than CS who, somewhat ironically, drones on for fully 400 words about how long it is. The review, titled “Slow, Boring And Long”, includes a description of each song – “Fascination Street: Not ‘fascinating’ at all!!”.

BS gives Pictures of You and Lullaby four stars and Love Song and Disintegration five stars, but the album itself receives a disappointing two stars overall. “Moodiness is not what I expected from The Cure!”, she says.

So to recap, contrary to popular opinion, the album described by Kyle Broflovski from South Park as ‘the best album ever’ is actually a “disgusting, nasty listening experience”, “pretentious”, unworthy of radio play (the only real mark of quality music), “depressing”, “carnival music” with “mopey vocals”, substandard songs and way too long. Probably not worth £5.32, in that case.

Interestingly, none of the negative reviewers I’ve found have picked up on my main criticism I have of Disintegration – that synthesizer sound always, always reminds me of the original theme music from Casualty.

 

 

Trashed! ‘Loveless’ by My Bloody Valentine

‘Just Like Heaven’ by The Cure covered by Dinosaur Jr – Magnificent Cover Version No. 10

Trashed! The Pixies

‘White Lines (Don’t Do It)’ by Grandmaster Flash & Melle Mel covered by Silverfish – Magnificent Cover Version No. 33

You can’t fault charismatic London indie punks the Silverfish for their ambition in covering White Lines (Don’t Do It). They take Grandmaster Flash & Melle Mel’s early hip-hop classic and give it an unhinged, noise rock spin. Nobody would seriously claim it improves on the original, but it’s good, raucous fun; like something belted out at the end of a drunken rehearsal, just to amuse the band.

The distinctive bassline is thoroughly distorted but still recognisable somewhere beneath the wailing feedback, rumbling drums and Fuzz Duprey’s squally, phased guitar gibberish. Lesley Rankine delivers the rap in her gruffly aggressive way and most of the lyrics seem to be there. I haven’t checked that, to be honest. That’s not part of the service I’m providing here, which can be summarised as drawing your attention to/reminding you of/making sarcastic comments about this particular cover version. Feel free to compare the two versions for yourself. Here’s the Silverfish.

Silverfish were active between 1988 to 1993 during which time they made quite an impression on anyone who heard them at their thrillingly chaotic live shows or via their various Peel Sessions. Their uncompromising attitude and warped sense of humour secured them plenty of music press coverage too, despite the overriding popularity of baggy, indie-dance and shoegaze bands at the time.

White Lines was one of the highlights on the Silverfish’s first full-length album, Fat Axl, released in 1991, the follow-up to the previous year’s brilliant, 1990 mini-album Cockeye. Like most good things, it was produced by Steve Albini, under the pseudonym of Ding Rollski.

Silverfish Fat Axl

Fat Axl was well-received by critics and fans alike but was too raw, uncompromising and resolutely uncommercial to ride the US grunge wave that was just starting to gather pace –  though they did make a memorable appearance in the early afternoon at Reading 1991, sandwiched between Babes In Toyland and Nirvana.

Of course these days the phrase Fat Axl is more closely associated with a series of memes taking the piss out of Axl Rose for being overweight. They’re not that funny – generally featuring painful puns that crowbar junk food items into Guns ‘n’ Roses lyrics – but Axl himself has stepped in to give the situation some humour by demanding that Google removes them from the internet, and seemingly expecting that to happen.

The Silverfish’s next, and last, album Organ Fan (1992) did slightly better commercially than its predecessors, despite a sludgy mix that diluted the band’s attack. It also spawned what may have proved to be their most lasting legacy; the feminist t-shirt slogan ‘Hips, Tits, Lips, Power’ – taken from the chorus of single Big Bad Baby Pig Squeal. This garment quickly became extraordinarily popular with badass indie girls.

That t-shirt and that slogan may have lived long in the mind, but the Silverfish deserve to also be remembered for the brash, witty, aggressive and downright life-affirming majesty of their music.


Whilst ‘researching’ this post I discovered that Duran Duran took a lead from Lesley, Fuzz and the boys and released their own cover version of White Lines in 1995. If you click this link you’ll be taken to the official video for the single. It features Simon Le Bon and whatever the rest of them were called, leaping around, like they’re McBusted or something, despite being immensely old by this time. Probably best if you don’t click the link.

Silverfish

‘The Model’ by Kraftwerk covered by Big Black – Magnificent Cover Version No.17

Shellac – Live @ The Asylum, Birmingham

1000 Homo DJs covering ‘Supernaut’ by Black Sabbath – Magnificent Cover Version No.32

Trashed! ‘Never Mind the Bollocks, Here’s the Sex Pistols’

Never Mind The Bollocks is everything a ‘seminal’ album should be – powerful, influential, controversial, timeless. It’s an iconic, genre-defining masterpiece held up as an inspiration for most of the great bands that have followed in the decades since, as well as several of the shit ones.

Forty years on from its release, it’s always included in greatest albums lists for its cultural significance, its furious power and its fearlessly abrasive attitude. It’s also stacked with genuinely great songs. No matter how many times you’ve heard it, you can’t listen to it again without being affected by it one more time.

It goes without saying that Never Mind The Bollocks isn’t meant for everyone. The whole point of the Sex Pistols was to upset and antagonise and their only proper album encapsulates this. It polarised opinion in 1977 and it’s doing the same thing now.

Nowadays those who feel confused or offended by the Sex Pistols have the opportunity to get their opinions out via online reviews. And boy do they take that opportunity!

“TOTAL PISS…..god save my ears”

That’s the title of a review from one anonymous Amazon UK commenter. The review, that’s heavy on anger, but light on punctuation, gives Never Mind The Bollocks the minimum one star, stating:

“the sex pistols the worst band in the world a bunch of spotty bums “playing” instruments they haven’t got a clue how to play and just winging [sic] and making a dreadful sound.”

The review continues (unedited):

“the sex pistols surely did pull the wool over peoples eyes in the late 70’s when real music was happening i bet they thought lets make an album of bollocks say a swear word on television and then we will have huge success… and one other thing jonny rotten can’t sing”

Predictably, the ‘they couldn’t sing or play their instruments’ cliche is a recurring theme from the negative reviewers. JJW is among the most vehement in taking this line:

“I have never accepted “punk” as a form of music because it takes NO TALENT WHATSOEVER to play a generic pair/trio of chords. Just learn to play guitar for a few months and you’ll be able to “play” this garbage effortlessly.”

JJW may not be sure how many chords you’d need to master to play the Sex Pistols’ music, ‘effortlessly’, but he’s absolutely certain that it would take “NO TALENT WHATSOEVER”. Some people call that the democratising power of punk, obviously not JJW.

Over in America, HC isn’t a fan either:

“I hate the Sex Pistols. I bought the album and then sold it the next day.”

This might seem like HC hasn’t given Never Mind the Bollocks the chance to grow on him, but it’s understandable when he explains the peculiar effects it has on him:

“I can’t listen to that annoying whine without gritting my teeth and stabbing my ears.”

Nasty! Considering that, it sounds like getting rid of the album was the only sane course of action for HC. But not only is he unable to appreciate it, he’s unable to appreciate why anyone else would appreciate it:

“You Pistols fans think you’re any better than the 12 year old girl next door with the Sum 41 shirt? They’re a joke and so are you.”

Wait a minute – so is it the Sex Pistols, Sum 41 or the 12 year old girls next door with Sum 41 shirts who are a joke as well as us? And who dragged Sum 41 into this anway? We may never know.

There’s another confusing one-star review from Anonymous in the USA:

“Basically if you think you’re punk cuz you listen to this, well you’re nothing but a stupid trendy poseur who says all the punk things, listen to all the punk things, and conforms to all the punk things.”

Right, so if you listen to punk, speak like a punk and act like a punk, you’re not a punk, you’re a “stupid trendy poseur”. Got it, thanks.

NU is aggrieved that the Pistols released an album at all:

“This band never intended to release an album but sold out and the result is that loads of people were conned into buying an L.P. that had a load of dross plus the singles that they had already bought.”

Before making this shocking admission:

“In the iPod era this album would have died a speedy death as people would only want the three songs and if they flet [sic] the need to have the album for completeness they would just download it for free.”

Now what sort of a comment is this? NU seems to be advocating a sort of Darwinian attitude to musicians and their output, where only those who can muster more than three great singles per album should be allowed to survive. Harsh! And NU gives Never Mind the Bollocks the minimum one star rating as a result.

Other one star reviews come from AML, who adds, oxymoronically that he/she would rather have given it:

“at least minus 10 stars”

…from PV, who inexplicably felt that this insight was worth sharing:

“Deffo not a SP fan,was asked by a bride if I could play SPs at her wedding found this collection all the known numbers are on it.”

…and from TWG, who refuses to let his loose knowledge of the facts stop him from sharing his opinion on the band:

“Johnny Rotton [sic] is a fool of the highest order. He murdered his girlfriend and was always a pathetic washed up junkie.”

As well as getting this completely wrong, TWG also insists on making this dubious claim:

“try playing this in a crowd and everyone will go silent, in an embarressed [sic], awkward way (I have actually seen this happen, even when half of the crowd had an affiliation with punk music).

Really, TWG? Did that happen? Or did you just make it up?

Finally, we come to AKRAKR seems to be slightly obsessed with the Sex Pistols, having posted at least half-a-dozen reviews of them on the US Amazon. In one of his/her first reviews AKR acknowledges the band’s historical importance:

“Cheers to the band for pretty much starting the punk rock genre…”

But there’s a ‘but’ coming:

“but really at this early stage punk rock is really awful. The Sex Pistols have a really annoying singer, unmemorable songs, and a pretty stupid name too.”

In various later reviews AKR refers to them as “the $hit Pistols”, “the Linkin Park of the 70s”, “manufactured corporate trash”, a “cr@ppy piece of $hit band”, and “a blatent [sic] marketing scam dreamed up by a bunch of fat, balding, cigar smoking record company executives in suits and ties”.

AKR‘s exhaustively explains his/her objections to the band over several reviews. These include “a horribly irritating singer” with a voice that’s “literally painful to listen to”, “absolutely boring and rhthymically corrupt songs”, that they were “utterly hypocritical” and, just to hammer the point home, “IT’S NOT EVEN GOOD MUSIC, FOR GOODNESS SAKE!” With one exception:

“Don’t get the CD, but if possible get their decent hit “Anarchy in the U.K.” I do like that one.” 

And if you think that’s giving mixed messages, the last review I can find from AKR finishes with this advice:

“DON’T BUY THIS! If you really must buy it, destroy the CD right afterwards.”

Yeah, good idea AKR, that’ll show those cigar chomping record company execs!

 

The Sex Pistols covering ‘Substitute’ by The Who – Magnificent Cover Version No.29

Trashed! ‘Loveless’ by My Bloody Valentine

Trashed! The Pixies

1000 Homo DJs covering ‘Supernaut’ by Black Sabbath – Magnificent Cover Version No.32

1000 Homo DJs was one of Al Jourgensen’s many short-lived side projects, which amounted to two 12″ releases in total – Apathy in 1988 and Supernaut in 1990. The latter saw Jourgensen and other members of Ministry collaborating with Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails to cover the 1972 Black Sabbath delight Supernaut.

Al Jourgensen has been synonymous with industrial metal for so long now that it’s hard to believe Ministry started off doing a kind of OMD-style synth-pop in early-’80s Chicago. Steve Albini – who was developing both Big Black and his witty sourpuss persona in Chicago at that time – was so outraged at the suggestion that Ministry might produce a band he did appreciate that he came out with this famous barb:

“If you do, and you make them one-tenth as wimpy as Ministry, I’ll cut your balls off and sew them shut in your mouth.”

Nice!

By 1990 Ministry were fully converted to high-tempo, drum machine-driven, sample-heavy, thrashy metal and Jourgensen was collaborating with Jello Biafra (in Lard), Ian MacKaye (in Pailhead) and Richard 23 (in Revolting Cocks). The most lucrative link-up would come in 1991 when Butthole Surfer Gibby Haynes provided gibberish guest vocals on Jesus Built My Hotrod, leading to heavy airplay on MTV and platinum sales figures. But Supernaut is pretty great too. Of course it is – it’s by Black Sabbath.

Black_Sabbath_Vol._4

Not just Black Sabbath, but early, original line-up Black Sabbath – Ozzy, Tony, Geezer and Bill. Peak Sabbath.

Name a four-album run better than Black Sabbath, Paranoid, Masters of Reality and Volume 4 – you can’t, can you?

It was Millhouse who introduced me to Sabbath. Growing up in the Midlands in the ’80s I would see loads of old rockers with long, stringy hair, in Black Sabbath leather jackets, stinking of patchouli oil and I wasn’t impressed with them or their metal aesthetic. Plus, metal at that time, to me meant hair metal – Poison, Motely Crue and the like – and that repelled me even more.

So when my music taste was developing as a ’90s teenager, I took some persuading that that wasn’t what Sabbath were about. It helped when Melody Maker referred to them as part of the unholy trinity of punk touchstones – Black Sabbath, Black Flag, Big Black.

So, starting with Masters of Reality, I got my Sabbath on and never looked back. Genius songs, an incomparable rhythm section and the insane charisma of Ozzy are all big factors in their enduring appeal. But it’s Tony Iommi’s riffs that define them isn’t it? On Sweet Leaf, War Pigs, Paranoid, Children of the Grave and Sabbra Caddabra; lip-curling, head-banging, ear-thumping riffs. Supernaut is one of their best. Apparently it’s also a favourite of Beck’s and John Bonham and Frank Zappa were fans too.

So for their cover, Al Jourgensen and Trent Reznor wisely decided not to change much when playing Supernaut as 1000 Homo DJs. Because this was the ’90s, there’s a fun, paranoid sample before it starts:

Practically every one of the top 40 records being played on every radio station in the United States is a communication to the children to take a trip, to cop out, to groove. The psychedelic jackets on the record albums have their own hidden symbols and messages as well as all the lyrics of all the top rock songs, and they all sing the same refrain, ‘it’s fun to take a trip, put acid in your veins’.

But from then on it’s a straight ahead, appropriately respectful cover. The only real differences are the driving, industrial drum beat and the distortion on Reznor’s voice, apparently added to disguise the fact that he’d done them at all, since his record label had denied permission for him to appear.

So Jourgensen and Reznor’s Supernaut is highly enjoyable without adding anything much to the original. Maybe it did help introduce a new generation to the mighty Black Sabbath and to the brilliance of Tony Iommi’s riffery and it was guaranteed to fill the dance floor at indie clubs for a time. Plus, it got me writing this; which isn’t saying much in itself but has led directly to me learning that Ozzy’s first name is actually John and Geezer’s is Terrence, which is, y’know, vaguely interesting.

1000 Homo DJs

‘War Pigs’ by Black Sabbath, covered by Alice Donut – Magnificent Cover Version No.13

‘Kick Out The Jams’ by MC5 covered by Rage Against The Machine – Magnificent Cover Version No.25

 

Trashed! ‘Loveless’ by My Bloody Valentine

My Bloody Valentine are widely regarded as one of the most original and ground-breaking bands of all time. They inspire rare levels of devotion in their fans and are cited as an influence by thousands of subsequent artists in various genres. Pitchfork names Loveless as the best album of the nineties, Rolling Stone had it at number 219 in its “500 Greatest Albums of all Time” and The Irish Times puts it as number 1 in the “Top 40 Irish Albums of all Time”.

MBV are critically acclaimed and loved intensely for their melodies, musicianship, beauty and phenomenal power and Loveless is viewed by many as their timeless masterpiece.

But of course, not everybody likes it. Some people just don’t see the appeal. And some of those that have remained unimpressed have been good enough to share the benefit of their experience in online reviews over the years.

LE heads his/her one-star review of Loveless “A new definition for ‘terrible'” and speculates that This has to be one of the worst albums ever recorded in the history of time”.

Anon, is of a similar opinion, also giving Loveless the minimum one star and a review entitled “A very bad album”, which concludes by comparing it to “a load of poop on a chair”. LB’s 2009 review states that the album is “The worst crap ever”.

HHB, continues the ‘crap’ theme with this considered, if grammatically suspect, advice:

“really really crappy don’t do this to yourself forget this crap and this stupid type of music”

Fair enough, HHB, doesn’t like it. This was flagged up in the title of the review (HHB‘s capitals) – “STUPID CRAP FROM THE DUMB BORING EARLY 90S” – but of more interest than that is this fascinating simile from the beginning of the review:

“This music is so stupid and weird not in a good unique way but just an uncomfortable way like when you are at someone’s house and you don’t like them and want to go home but you can’t and you probably have to spend the night in their living room…”

Huh? Does this happen to anyone else? HHB uses this as an example of something that’s “stupid”, “weird” and not “unique”, so it seems to be a regular occurrence for him/her. HHB doesn’t expand on this in the course of the review, which is a shame because it seems like he/she has a story to tell.

NS also has a story to tell and isn’t as shy as HHB. His/her review takes in Mozart, acid house and the Berlin Wall. Here’s a (small) excerpt:

“All notion of talent is historical, but some people certainly rely much more on contextual receptivity than voluntaristic [sic] genius. MBV are the former. Just like Mozart’s 2nd rate elevator work hypnotized his contemporaries who basically wanted music to sound pretty and dainty while they ate bonbons and powdered their wigs, MBV released a record during an age where, mindbogglingly people were willing to hear anything that sounded like apathy, but loud.”

Phew! NS is quite the iconoclast. Not content with having a pop at My Bloody Valentine and the early-nineties (again!), he/she has dragged Mozart into it as well. The review continues at length in the same vain – including the descriptions “passive-aggressive neuroticism” and “formally formless” – before concluding:

“Some people think this is the apex of music: music as music, pure music, a religious experience, the sublime that blows you away. Others like me simply keep powdering their wigs and eating bonbons.”

By the time I’d read the whole review I felt like I’d been forced to spend the night in the living room of someone I don’t like.

Predictably, NS’s gibberish provoked some reactions.

MF wrote, “I thought Pitchfork wrote impenetrable, dull reviews that manage to say little to nothing about the music. But this review…Jesus Christ.”

Whilehit back with, “The powdered wig may be interfering with your hearing”.  AM replied simply, “Are they particularly sour bonbons?”

NS may be wordy, but he/she has nothing on an anonymous review of Loveless from 2004 entitled “Quite possibly the worst album I’ve ever heard”. It goes on for more than 700 words. What’s wrong with succinctly comparing it to “poop on a chair” if that’s how you feel? Some of the highlights of the review include:

“just because something is unique doesn’t make that thing good”

“the most gut-wrenching horrific unattractive pile of terrible sounds that I have ever experienced”

and

“I cannot physically stand to listen to this album.”

Finally, if you feel like that last reviewer made a misstep in purchasing Loveless, wait until you hear from TM.

TM‘s 2010 review includes this line:

“I thought from the band name that they’d sound like My Chemical Romance, how wrong I was!”

A good thing, surely? But no! On closer inspection TM is disappointed by this, and has given Loveless two stars.

C responds to TM, asking:

“What on Earth possessed you to think it might sound like My Chemical Romance? Just because both bands have names that start with ‘My’?”

It’s a fair question and nicely put. But sadly it’s now seven years since C asked it and TM is yet to reply. Fortunately, My Bloody Valentine fans are a patient bunch.

The Mary Chain, My Bloody Valentine, Dinosaur Jr & Blur – ‘Rollercoaster’ 1992

Trashed! The Pixies

Trashed! ‘Odelay’ by Beck

 

 

The Dead Kennedys covering ‘Viva Las Vegas’ by Elvis Presley – Magnificent Cover Version No.31

Viva Las Vegas is one of the standout tracks from The Dead Kennedys’ 1980 debut album Fresh Fruit for Rotting Vegetables.

Given that the other standouts on this political, hardcore punk classic include Kill the Poor, California Uber Alles and Holiday in Cambodia, it’s slightly surprising to find an Elvis cover in there too. But they up the tempo – and the sarcasm – and deliver one of the great punk cover versions.

Elvis’s original, and the film of the same name, present a sanitised vision of Vegas, in which any chancer can rock up and roll their way to a life-changing fortune. In the film Elvis plays Lucky Jackson, a penniless racing driver who wins a fortune, loses it and pesters Ann-Margret for the unlikeliest date ever – featuring helicoptering, water-skiing, motorcycling and wild west gun slinging. He then – undeservedly – beats her in a talent contest to restore his fortune, wins the Grand Prix against his rival in racing and love, who is nearly killed in the process, then marries Ann-Margret, while staying on friendly terms with everyone and maintaining an extraordinary hairstyle. It’s the American Dream in movie form.

The Dead Kennedys were never big believers in the American Dream. According to Jello Biafra their infamous name was supposed to draw attention to its end. So their satirical cover of Viva Las Vegas could’ve been really scathing.

DK live

In reality it’s pretty faithful, with Biafra’s campy vocals even taking on a slight Presley twang. The biggest difference is the subtle amendments to some of the lyrics so:

How I wish that there were more
Than the twenty-four hours in the day
’cause even if there were forty more
I wouldn’t sleep a minute away

becomes:

How I wish that there were more
Than the twenty-four hours in the day
Even if I ran out of speed
Boy, I wouldn’t sleep a minute away

and:

I’m gonna give it everything I’ve got
Lady luck please let the dice stay hot
Let me shout a seven with every shot

becomes:

Ooh, I’m gonna give it everything I’ve got
Lady Luck’s with me, the dice stay hot
Got coke up my nose to dry away the snot

Of course, messing with Elvis’s legacy is bound to attract criticism, no matter how subtle the barbs are. And in 1980, when this was released, just three years after the death of The King, it was even more provocative. But then, you don’t name a band The Dead Kennedys if you’re worried about a bit of anger from conservative commentators.

 

Jello Biafra is still active today, pointing out hypocrisy and injustice and rubbing people up the wrong way. Of course hypocrisy and injustice are really easy to find these days and a lot of people are pointing them out, but Jello does is really well. His anti-Trump rants on YouTube are awesomely entertaining. The best of these is the surreal one in which he shows off the pro-Trump colouring book he picked up from San Francisco airport, with each page depicting Donald in a different heroic scenario for your children to crayon – Superman Trump, Mount Rushmore Trump, Enola Gay Trump, etc.

Who said the America Dream was dead?

 

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Magnificent Cover Version No.6 – (I’m Not Your) ‘Steppin’ Stone’ by The Monkees, covered by Minor Threat

Butthole Surfers covering ‘Hurdy Gurdy Man’ by Donovan – Magnificent Cover Version No. 8

Shellac – Live @ The Asylum, Birmingham

Shellac have a casual attitude to playing live. This is from their page on the Touch & Go Website:

Band information: While there is no specific coordination between Shellac’s record releases and touring schedules, you can expect the band to tour at its usual sporadic and relaxed pace.

They’re busy men, but they’ll get together and play when they can, and when they do, they’ll enjoy it.

Seeing them live, it’s obvious just how much they enjoy it. The chemistry between Todd Trainer (drums), Bob Weston (bass/vocals) and Steve Albini (guitar/vocals/living legend) is stupefying. Each element is completely locked in to the others; each one equally important.

Of course they shouldn’t be equally important, because the fact is that’s Steve Albini over there on the left. Even if you’re the biggest Shellac fan in the world, chances are that you only started listening to them in the first place because you love something he’s been involved with previously – be that Big Black, Rapeman, Surfer RosaSeamonsters, PodIn Utero, or, or, or, take your pick; you’re spoilt for choice.

But after two songs it’s obvious that the Shellac machine has three cogs and each of them is vital. They blast through the intricate, angular, stop/start hardcore with total precision and power; split-second perfect on every weird time signature, start and restart. I assumed this was purely down to practise, but they play a different set every night so it can only be telepathy.

They blast through their set – Squirrel Song, Dude Incredible, A Minute, Prayer To God. People say he’s mellowed since his Big Black days, but even after all this time making punishing music, Steve continues to find new ways of wringing abrasive noise from an electric guitar, can still be incredibly intense and can still scream till his jugular bulges. Bob, on bass, takes turns on vocal duties too. Often they’ll take turns to play rhythm, while the other handles lead, regardless of the instrument. Todd occupies centre-stage – skinny and exhausted-looking – he almost looks like he’s there against his will, such is the strained look on his gaunt face as he holds everything together with his shamanic drumming.

They have an understanding and collective force that can only come from musicians who really care about and love what they’re doing and have been doing it for more than two decades.

They complement each other as personalities as well. Bob is approachable and funny and does most of the talking, fielding the regular Q&A questions from the audience, covering a variety of subjects – haircuts, trousers, Dinosaur Jr vs Sebadoh. Steve is happy to stay on the sidelines for this but chips in occasionally with a witty remark – insisting that no one should feel obliged to buy a t-shirt because ‘you’ve done enough’. Todd stays silent, but gets involved from time to time to give a comic shrug or to give a twirl when Bob confirms him as the ‘sexy one’ in the band.

They’re playful during the songs too. One (incredibly loud) bar into their opening song they stop and freeze, apart from Todd twirling a drumstick in slow motion, for close to a minute before resuming in unison as if nothing had happened. During the drum break on Steady As She Goes, Bob and Steve run and hide behind amps at the side of the stage, leaving Todd on his own. And as the last song – the awesome Spoke – closes, Steve and Bob dismantle Todd’s kit, piece by piece until he’s left just hitting a snare. Then they wave goodbye.

It’s great when you come away from seeing a band a bigger fan than you were before. They put on a tight, loud and intense show while giving a new dimension to familiar songs, having a blast themselves and being genuinely funny. Albini got the biggest laugh of the night, telling the Birmingham crowd, ‘You have a beautiful city’. But he went on to explain:

“Beauty is only skin-deep. Think what you’ve given to the world. I’m talking about Black Sabbath.”

That got an appreciative cheer. Most people there weren’t born when Sabbath were at their height, but still, it was heart-warming to hear one legend paying genuine respect to another. In fact that’s what the whole night was – heart-warming – which I wouldn’t have expected beforehand. So yeah, maybe Albini has mellowed.

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‘The Model’ by Kraftwerk covered by Big Black – Magnificent Cover Version No.17

‘Eight Miles High’ by The Byrds, covered by Husker Du – Magnificent Cover Version No.21

Trashed! The Pixies

There surely can’t be a more universally loved and admired band than the Pixies? They’re responsible for some of the most memorable, original and influential music of the last 30 years and their early albums are overwhelmingly considered by indie fans and critics to be timeless classics, notable for the originality of the music, the power and beauty of their songs and the unique chemistry of the musicians.

Nobody sounds like the Pixies and they’re held in the collective affection of millions of people who love music.

But not everyone sees the attraction. Here’s what some online reviewers, who’ve refused to bow to consensus, have had to say about our heroes.

BQ heads his or her (I’m guessing his) review of Surfer Rosa Not as good as the cover art”. Here’s some of his stream-of-consciousness feedback, unedited:

“i bought this crapy cd because “where is my mind?”was the awsome song at the end of Fight Club, but the rest of the cd is shit”

He continues with another reference to the half-naked woman on the sleeve and to poo:

“the cover art of Surfer Rosa should switch with the cover art for the [Nine Inch Nails album] Downward Spiral, because that cd was as good as tits, this cd was more like the diarrea stain of music.”

Regardless of BQ’s music taste and spelling, you’ve got to admire his unique system for rating music – from ‘diarrea stain’ [sic] up to ‘good as tits’, presumably via ‘firm stool’, ‘acceptable as stomach’ and ‘average as shoulders’.

MP is less original, giving a traditional one star to his/her review of Doolittle, entitled “All dressed up and nowhere to go”, for no apparent reason. MP has no time for the “typical disaffected teenage lyrics that serve to meet peer expectations”, whatever that means, adding, “and there’s something missing in the musicality department.” 

Conversely, Doolittle is one of BF’s ‘favorite albums’, but feels Surfer Rosa is “trying to be eccentric on purpose, which is ok, but not when the songs suck. The musicianship seems amateur and sloppy”.

GG cuts straight to the heart of the debate:

“One of my buddies said these guys were good. This is garbage.”

No over-analysing or comparing to body parts or functions for GG; just straight to the point, dismissing it as junk. GG still gives Pilgrim/Surfer two stars though. Unlike AW, a bitter soul, who gives it/them the minimum one star stating:

“Yeah, you’re so alternative! After hearing that one of these emo bands cite Linkin park as a major influence and then thanks to wikipedia it turns out that they were influenced by Nirvana (so you buy all their records)who name the Pixies as one of their big influences (so you buy their records too), I’m sick of it! I discovered The Pixies in 1980-something and they’re mine, dammit. What are you going to do now? rediscover Husker Du, DON’T! They’re mine too!”

Yes, fuckers, hands off! There’s a limit to the number of people who can appreciate any given band, you know. If you start liking it, one of the original likers – from 1980-something – will have to stop liking it. It doesn’t seem fair, but those are the rules.

Luckily the band’s ’90s output divided some of those original fans slightly, making room for some newcomers. RB thinks Bossanova is “a hiccup, an error bookended by brilliance”, while Anon thinks it’s “brilliant” but Trompe Le Monde is a “huge disappointment” without “a single song on this record that is worth listening to.” 

is even more critical of Trompe, to the point where punctuation is totally out of the window:

 “this my friends is appalling god could they make much more un-inspired noise i kno that’s the trait of the pixies but for gods sake just a few guitars being plucked badly and frank black screeching with his balls in his throat god.”

The very best review is V‘s opinion on Bossanova, entitled ‘horrible music’. Poor was duped by the album’s misleading title:

“I was expecting something about real bossanova no this awful rock group. no recommended if you like soft music. poor quality anyway”

Poor V, took the title all too literally and registered a one-star review by way of complaint.

Just goes to show, there’s no such thing as universally popular, and AW, jealously protecting the music that means most to AW lest it gets used up, will be mighty pleased about that.

Trashed! ‘Loveless’ by My Bloody Valentine

Pixies, Live – still dealing in magic

‘Head On’ by The Jesus & Mary Chain covered by Pixies – Magnificent Cover Version No.16

Trashed! ‘Odelay’ by Beck

 

 

 

 

 

Shonen Knife covering ‘Top Of The World’ by The Carpenters – Magnificent Cover Version No.30

Shonen Knife’s version of The Carpenters’ standard retains the blissed-out positivity of the original On Top Of The World, ditches the country and western elements and gives it a welcome upbeat, pop-punk twist.

On Top Of The World was released as part of one of those tribute albums that always look they’re going to be a really good idea but ultimately don’t add up to the sum of their parts.

For someone like me, who regularly writes blog posts about cover versions – for reasons that I can’t quite remember or adequately explain – tribute albums aren’t the rich source of inspirational material that they could be.

The idea is to take a seminal act like The Smiths, The Clash, or the Pixies, get a load of contemporary bands to cover their best known songs and package them up together in a collection. This ought to work more often than it does – songs you know covered by acts you like – but they tend to disappoint for some reason.

Carpenters

If I Were A Carpenter, released in 1994, is one of those disappointing compilations. It saw some of The Carpenters’ best known songs – We’ve Only Just Begun, (They Long To Be) Close To You, Yesterday Once More – covered by amazing bands like Redd Kross, Babes In Toyland and Sonic Youth but none of them really hit the spot, except for Shonen Knife’s Top Of The World. Unlike other songs on the album, SK get the balance just right between showing due respect for the original and putting their own stamp on the song, so it feels simultaneously familiar and new. I don’t see how even a fan of the Carpenters would fail to enjoy this as much as a punk fan.

Shonen Knife have been around since 1981 and in 1989 they got the disappointing tribute album treatment themselves. Every Band Has A Shonen Knife Who Loves Them features L7, Sonic Youth, Blue Oyster Cult, Lunachicks and a load of ’80s bands that have since slipped into obscurity, but whom no doubt somebody still loves.

Shonen Knife continue their cartoon punk odyssey to this day, recording and touring the world with lead singer/guitarist Naoko Yamano the only consistent member for their 36-year and counting career. They’ve got about 25 studio albums in their discography, the latest being Adventure from 2016, and they’ll probably be playing near you soon.

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‘Surfin’ Bird’ by The Trashmen, covered by The Ramones – Magnificent Cover Version No.23

Butthole Surfers covering ‘Hurdy Gurdy Man’ by Donovan – Magnificent Cover Version No. 8