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.

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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

 

 

 

 

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Trashed! ‘Odelay’ by Beck

Beck’s critically acclaimed, genre-busting, zeitgeist-capturing, 1996 masterpiece Odelay is his best-selling album. Its an inspired collaboration with The Dust Brothers which produced five excellent singles – Where It’s At, Devil’s Haircut, Sissyneck, Jack-Ass and The New Pollution – and so marked the point where he moved out from under the shadow of his quirky, 1993 monster hit, Loser.

NME and Village Voice rated it as the best album of 1996. Rolling Stone’s put it at number nine in their 100 Best Albums of the Nineties. It won a Grammy for ‘Best Alternative Music Performance’ and is certified as Platinum in the US (x 2), Canada (x 2) and the UK (x 3).

Not everyone likes it though. Some erudite and knowledgeable people doing online reviews have got a few things to say about it.

RT bought it off Amazon and gave this feedback:

“C**p. Complete and utter c**p. This [sic] a complete load of self indulgent, tuneless, ridiculous rubbish. It only cost me 1p, and I feel ripped off. Avoid at all costs.”

1p! A lot of people would have written off this loss, but RT is a man who expects value for his penny, so was good enough to warn other potential purchasers before he took his bitter arse down to the charity shop to dispose of Odelay.

DA, in a review titled “Bizarre, over-rated”, describes it as “Completely unlistenable”, and gives it two stars, which seems quite generous considering he “sold it after playing it twice (second time just to make sure I wasn’t imagining the first time)”.

This draws a helpful response from JJ – You want Bizarre? Check out Stereopathetic Soulmanure. Odelay is chart-pop by comaprison [sic]. Obviously Odelay IS chart pop, whether compared to Beck’s 1994 Flipside Records release or not, but it’s more ironic that JJ‘s ‘coma prison’ typo could easily be the title of a Beck song.

SG isn’t impressed either, “massively overrated, all the beats have been done better in hip hop, doesn’t hold up to repeated listening”.

AC gives his/her comment the lukewarm title “pleasant” before going on to give a seemingly unrelated review “This is a brilliant album by Beck, perhaps his greatest to date, avoid his hyped up single “loser” and go for some Beck Quality, this album is a must for all beck fans.” AC could’ve potentially saved somebody a penny with that advice. Weirdly, both SG (‘massively overrated’) and AC (‘brilliant album’) give it three stars.

Here’s an anonymous Amazon review from 2004 that shatters the idea that Beck is original.

“This album is the DEFINTION [sic] of derivative. I will only listen to it once, because I got tired of writing down each song’s obvious original influence”

Someone ought to tell him/her that you’re not obliged to do that.

Another anonymous review from 1999 is offended by Beck’s change of musical direction and refusal to play in the dark:

“To see Beck rapping and dancing around in arena of lights is nearly blasphematic [sic], considering he came up as a loner singing slow silly folk songs played on an old guitar secured to him by a rope.”

The second he has a hit single he abandons his guitar rope and gets himself a strap. The fucking sell-out! And turn those lights off too! It’s ‘blasphematic’ is what it is!

Finally, PA’s 2013 review contains a theory, which he/she acknowledges “probably it’s going to sound pompous and pretentious”, so you know it’s going to be good. And it doesn’t disappoint.

“I live in LA, and I know how the hype machine works: a) It preys on the weak-minded and socially addicted, who are desperate to be defined through a clique. b) It preys on the undereducated, who lack proper context and reference (i.e., better art for comparative purposes).”

So now we know. It’s not our fault. It’s just that all us pricks who’ve wasted time and money on Odelay and thought it was good have allowed our socially-addicted, weak minds to be taken in by the hype machine and if we were better educated and had been allowed access to better art we may not have been so naïve. If only PA hadn’t waited until 17 years after Odelay’s release to listen to it and write that review for us. If only we could all live in LA.

 

Music from the Motion Picture Judgment Night – Rap Rock’s last stand!

‘Fuel My Fire’ by L7 covered by The Prodigy – Magnificent Cover Version No.18