Friday, July 04, 2008

Retro Music Snob Resurrected

Yesterday Retro Music Snob made a sneaky return to action after being on indefinite hiatus since November. It was definitely a welcome surprise to suddenly see familiar updates coming up on the ol' RSS feed. For the uninitiated, the Retro Music Snob provides an almost unrelenting stream of constant updates pointing out quality music across the blogosphere with bonus points for having an eye for cover songs. I think of it as a kind of human-curated Hype Machine, weeding out the chaff and digging up the gems. Full disclosure: he's linked to Fong Songs before, which is how I originally found out about the site. Go directly to this recent post for a chance to win the DVD and soundtrack to the Joe Strummer biopic The Future is Unwritten. In fact, based on the entries so far, right now I'd say you have about a 100% chance of winning...

To celebrate this welcome comeback, here are a bunch of covers that I'm loving lately that I'm having trouble shoehorning into a proper theme.

Moxy Früvous - Green Eggs & Ham [lyrics by Dr. Seuss]
Speaking of indefinite hiatuses... Moxy Frü, where are you? Last year I managed to obtain an original cassette of Moxy Früvous's 1992 six-song indie release. Despite being a huge fan of the Frü for pretty much 15 years, I was completely oblivious to the fact that the songs from this tape (Green Eggs & Ham excluded) were re-recorded for their label debut Bargainville. So I was stunned when I put in the tape and was treated to "new" versions of classic Frü-tunes with altered lyrics and subtle differences that jump out if you've heard these songs a million times. One of the more obvious changes for instance: in King of Spain instead of "Hey Clinton, hey Yeltsin, got problems? You phone me." they sing "Hey Bush, hey Yeltsin, got problems? You phone me." because, of course, the US presidency changed in the time between the indie release and Bargainville. Happy 4th of July, by the way, to our southern neighbours. Last week I finally got around to hooking a borrowed stereo (yes, I needed to actually borrow a cassette deck) to my computer and ripping the audio to forever be preserved on my iPod-- YAY! I also ripped a cassette (another fortuitous acquisition) of a rare 1995 KCRW performance by the Squirrel Nut Zippers, who came out of their own indefinite hiatus last year... remnants for a future post.

Erlend Ropstad - 7 [originally by Prince]
From the lawsuit-slapped tribute album of 81 Norwegian covers of Prince, a long awaited (by me) cover of Prince's 7. I'm barely a casual Prince fan, but I unabashedly love this song and it was criminally under-covered... until now, thanks Norway! And thank you Prince for suing and drawing my attention to this wonderful album.

Brady Harris - Highly Evolved [originally by The Vines]
I had never heard of Brady Harris, but he's definitely due for some recognition after listening to his 2007 cover album Cover Charge, which features covers of The Killers, Madonna, Duran Duran, Oasis, and more. Do you think we'll ever run out of cover puns to title these sorts of albums? Anyway, it was a delight to find a cover of The Vines' Highly Evolved, particularly in this interpretation that sounds like he's playing on a beat-up piano in the corner of a smoky saloon. A folksy cover of Motörhead's Ace of Spades is also well-worth a listen. Cover Charge can be had for under $10 at CD Baby (samples available).

Stunned Parrots - The Look [originally by Roxette]
A while ago I was thinking that there should be more covers of Roxette, a bit of a guilty pleasure from the late 80's/early 90's, though I don't know to what degree I should actually feel guilty about it. I happily tracked down this rock cover of The Look by Spanish band the Stunned Parrots and have been enjoying it unreservedly.
**UPDATE: Check this site for a comprehensive listing of Roxette covers. Thanks Scotty!

The Bicycles - Help! (featuring Treasa Levasseur) [originally by The Beatles]
The funny thing about this cover is they don't do anything particularly groundbreaking or special, which you'd think is almost a necessity with the amazingly over-covered Beatles canon. Recorded for an episode of CBC Radio One's GO!, this cover by Toronto indie band The Bicycles simply sounds "fun", if that makes any sense. Maybe it's the accordion (yeah, I'm a sucker).

The Wrong Trousers - Such Great Heights [originally by The Postal Service]
There are several covers of this modern classic by The Postal Service, but this is far and away the best I've heard. This infectious and beautiful take is by The Wrong Trousers, a mandolin/harp/upright bass trio who presumably took their name from the Wallace & Gromit short (kudos for that). Their sound could perhaps be called a little Nickel Creek-ish (double kudos for that). You may recognize them as unlikely high school buskers from this youtube cover of Video Killed the Radio Star, but now they're all growned up (kinda) and currently on tour! Their first album, which features both these covers, is available on CD Baby

Some linkage:

  • Clear your hard drive for-- get this-- a free online compilation of 57 covers of the 80's courtesy of Buffetlibre! I've barely started listening to them, but early highlights are Dragonette's Sharp Dressed Man and Adventure Kid's Safety Dance.

  • If you haven't heard about this yet, Doveman covers the entire Footloose soundtrack. Completely free from their site here. While the prospect is certainly exciting, I have to admit I wasn't exactly thrilled when I listened to it. Basically I had been waiting a long time for a cover of I'm Free (Heaven Helps The Man) and was disappointed by the slow motion gloom of the cover.

  • Want to hear a great cover album, likely an early contender for year-end favourites? An indie band from Boston called Action Camp released Cover Like Tan, a free covers LP companion to their album Dead Like Tan. Covers include The Zombies' The Way I Feel Inside (revived in a poignant scene from The Life Aquatic), The Violent Femmes' Gone Daddy Gone, and a nice cover of Depeche Mode's Enjoy the Silence (a difficult feat). Check the Action Camp site to download the 9-song cover album.

  • In completely unrelated news, check out this hilarious marketing campaign for Hellboy II here. This proves what I felt after seeing the first one: I'd rather see Hellboy in a sitcom. The character is great, Ron Perlman was born for the role, and the make-up is stunning, but I liked the scenes of "Hellboy 'round the house" more than the big action plot. Despite being underwhelmed by the first film, I'm still inclined to see the new one purely for the awesome old school creature effects. Visually, Guillermo del Toro is the perfect choice for The Hobbit films, but let's hope it's more Pan's Labyrinth and less Blade II. Lunchboxes!


    Drunk Country said...

    Cheers for the 7 cover - I too have been waiting someone to step up to that one.

    By the by, we have just aired our 3hr long Tom Waits cover versions special (The Waitsing Room II - Curel Variations) over at A podcast of it is available from - go check it out & smile or cringe.

    We ar serioously thinking about doing a Prince Cover Version special, but we're not enamoured so far by the choices available - perhaps you or your readershipfolk can suggest some doozies for us?

    Cheers again,


    stodmyk said...

    Green Eggs and Ham is brilliant. Thanks for reminding me; I've run to the CD library, and it's playing right now.

    Moxy Fruvous's version of the Spider-Man theme battles Michael Buble's for the kickin'est ass tune of the year, too.

    Scotty said...

    Howdy, in regards to Roxette covers. I thought you would like to visit my website regarding Roxette covers. I think it might be something you like. Have a wonderful day!

    Fongolia said...

    Wow, that's definitely the most comprehensive listing of Roxette covers I've ever seen! Thanks!

    action said...

    Thank you so kindly for the nod on our covers record. We're gonna try to do one along with each proper LP we put out since we close every show with a new cover song.


    - Bengt (Action Camp)

    Fongolia said...

    You're welcome. If you have a covers record accompanying each LP, I'll be there!

    Erlend said...

    ...And thank you for drawing attention to my 7 cover !
    peace out
    Erlend R