I discovered the PS22 Chorus today through Copy, Right? and despite having to work on a Saturday night (after already working late every night this week) I now have a huge smile on my face. A little googling suggests I might be one of the last people to have heard of them – such is the fate of someone who doesn’t read Perez Hilton or follow Ashton Kutcher on Twitter, I guess – but on the off-chance that you haven’t either, I’d love to share them with you.
This beautiful cover of Pictures Of You was the first thing I saw by them, and the reason I promptly went to Youtube to watch everything else I could find. It’s a little strange at first seeing these 5th graders sing with the sort of slightly cliched actions they must have seen in countless music videos, but you soon stop thinking about it and just enjoy their guilelessness. The arrangement is great too, with an a capella beginning which they handle very well and lovely accompaniment on the piano by their teacher, who is clearly the coolest music teacher ever.
The next performance I really like is of one of my favourite Tori Amos songs (their teacher is a huge Tori fan and has arranged many of her songs for them to sing), 1000 Oceans. It’s especially amazing that what you see in the video is after just two practices! I certainly don’t remember my primary school choir being ANYWHERE as impressive, though that could have been because I was in it. On the assumption that 1000 Oceans is less likely to be known to the readers of this blog than the other two songs in this post (yes, I do sometimes like chick singers, it’s not all guttural screaming and walls of feedback in my iPod), here’s Tori singing the original so you can compare. The studio version’s better than the live version I linked to, but it appears there’s been a Youtube crackdown on her studio versions. This might be one of those rare times when I like the cover as much as the original.
I saved the best for last, not because it’s necessarily the best performance they’ve done but because, as happy as the other two performances make me, this is the one I’ve listened to repeatedly tonight while ploughing through contracts. I’ll Be Your Mirror has long been one of my favourite love songs and I wanted to put it on our wedding playlist, but took it out in the end because I didn’t think the subtleties of the Velvet Underground and Nico suited a wedding dinner particularly well. If only I’d known about this version back then.
Aw, hell naw. If I’d only known about Lambchop’s wonderful cover of Sisters Of Mercy’s This Corrosion before our wedding, it would totally have gone on the playlist. Don’t get me wrong, I loved ending the night dancing to Nina Simone with Alec, but words like “Gimme the ring, kissed and toll’d” would’ve been a fun counterpoint to soppy stuff like “I bless the day I found you”, even as wonderfully true as the latter may be. Future brides-to-be, don’t pass up the opportunity I missed!
(Based on what I wrote a while back about what I like and don’t like in cover versions, this song goes straight into the Complete Re-Imagining, OMG Awesome! category. Another direct entry is Grizzly Bear’s cover of He Hit Me It Felt Like A Kiss.)
(Endearing extra: The This Corrosion cover can be found on the bonus disc for Lambchop’s album Is A Woman. The bonus disc is called Is A Bonus.)
I don’t actually agree with a lot of the Telegraph’s 50 best cover versions ever recorded, but it’s inspired me to chase some leads down all the same. I have high hopes for Johnny Cash doing One, and don’t quite know what to expect for The Bangles doing Hazy Shade Of Winter. While I’m trying to find those, here are my random thoughts about some cover versions I like and some cover versions I don’t. I see them as falling into three main categories, namely:
Indie bands like covering classic indie songs because it gives both the band and pretentious wankers like me in the audience the opportunity to show how we’re, like, totally in touch with Where It All Started by cheering in recognition and conspicuously mouthing all the lyrics. The problem is that unless you’re actually able to do something interesting with the song, there is no fucking point. Grandaddy’s cover of Pavement’s Here is a case in point, as is Death Cab For Cutie’s attempt at Bjork’s All Is Full Of Love. Neil Young gets covered a lot, but while I like the idea of Emmylou Harris doing Wrecking Ball and the Pixies doing Winterlong, the covers don’t sound like much more than people singing very pretty songs very prettily. The most successful one I can think of in this category (although I’d love to be told about anything I’ve missed) is Nirvana doing Lake Of Fire. There’s something about Kurt Cobain’s guttural “Where do bad folks go when they DIEEEEEEE” and “Don’t see ’em again till the fourth of Ju-LAAAAIIIII” which suits the song better than the pleasant harmonies of the Meat Puppets’ original.
This is the cover version where the artist says “I’m totally secure with my existing amount of cred, so I’m gonna sing something incredibly uncool now because I’m subversive that way.” I have to admit that I never find it that hard to enjoy ironic cover versions, because quite often I love the original song too. Travis did Hit Me Baby One More Time as a staple in their live shows at some point, but I prefer Richard Thompson’s Oops I Did It Again because his voice is so much more authoritative than Fran Healy’s and he puts in all these great acoustic guitar solos. My favourite ironic cover of the past year has been Ben Gibbard’s cover of Complicated. Ben Gibbard’s voice gets on my nerves sometimes, but here its winsome, almost overly-earnest quality sounds absolutely perfect. Also, the idea of him singing “Trying to be cool, you look like a fool to me” to a room full of trucker-capped, thrift-store-T-shirted, vintage-Converse-sneakered indie clones amuses me.
Complete Re-Imagining (but in a good, non-Planet-Of-The-Apes-2001 way):
How can Tricky’s Black Steel only be 29 in the Telegraph list? I’m too lousy at writing about music to think up a new way of describing how and why I love this song, but I stand by every word of my past gushing. The Slits’ post-punk I Heard It Through The Grapevine kills me every time with its crazy vibrato on the high notes, and every note of The Darkness’s Street Spirit is basically a crazily vibrating high note. If you haven’t heard Christopher O’Riley’s piano adaptations of Radiohead songs, Fake Plastic Trees is a great place to start. (And Jamie Fucking Cullum’s attempt at High And Dry, now advertised every five minutes on Singapore TV, makes me want to stuff his grand piano up his arse.) Will Young doing Hey Ya and Nick Cave doing Disco 2000 may seem like they should be in the Ironic category, but I’ve decided they belong here because both these covers actually make you realize how melancholy the original party classic songs actually are. You haven’t heard pathetic pleading until Nick Cave’s begging “What do you do on a Sunday, baby? Would you like to come and meet me, maybe? You can even bring your baby…”
Holy shit batman, Copy, Right? has posted swing versions of Disarm and Under A Killing Moon. This is a marriage of too many things I love. I’d like to try lindy-hopping to these, but my head might explode.
Music For Robots (which I really must add to my sidebar, because it has given me more great songs in the past few weeks than some other mp3 blogs have in their lifetimes) alerted me to this trippy version of Monkey Gone To Heaven, done by The Artist Currently Known As Frank Black Francis.
I should probably be able to form an opinion on how this version compares to the original, but I’m just too busy smiling and burbling and swaying rhythmically back and forth with my head rolling around on my neck like Stevie Wonder to put together anything coherent.
I do miss the “Then GAAAAWWWD is seven!” screeches in the Pixies version though.
There I was all smug because I managed to be on-the-ball enough to get tickets to see Múm at the Old Vic (well, to get Russ to get tickets) the day after I arrive in London. And then I found out about this, conveniently organized for when I’ve fucked off to Krakow. Not living in England any more really sucks.
When something sucks this much, only novelty mp3 downloads can cheer me up, which is why it was fabulous to have found:
(I can’t exactly remember where I found the mp3 links, but I’m pretty sure they were from largehearted boy, which I increasingly realize I can no longer live without.)