By New Times
By Derek Askey
By Mark Deming
By Serene Dominic
By Jason Keil
By Robrt L. Pela and Amy Silverman
By Jeff Moses
By Serene Dominic
Since the last time our vainglorious vanguards of verbiage joined forces, each was cooling his head at home, listening to trusted old favorites in an effort to drive any lingering trace of the Puff Daddy/Christopher Cross merger out of his mind.
Bill Blake was busily extricating the pristine jewel cases off the latest CMC International releases and renovating his barf splattered Pogues CDs. Serene Dominic spent his time playing recently discovered hard rockin' Perry Como sides to anyone who'd listen. But these elitist activities would soon grind to a halt. Snapping them out of their reverie and summoning them to 1201 East Jefferson was music editor Bob Mehr -- who, in all honesty, would rather have been home ironing the creases out of that Uncle Tupelo poster he paid way too much for on e-Bay.
But, for the love of Lou Bega, something had to be done about the throbbing, ever-expanding pile of new CDs in corrugated mailers growing inside Mehr's unkempt office -- christened by horrified New Times staffers as "The Heap." Since last month, The Heap had taken on a life of its own, slithering over to the break room, attacking an intern and helping itself to Tupperware contents inside the fridge before hot-footing it back to Mehr's office and hiding behind a Christina Aguilera standup display.
In an effort to make a serious dent and sap The Heap of its gathering strength, the three jeering gents decided it was time to listen with prejudice, as much prejudice as could be humanly mustered, attacking anything their preconceived minds already had decided looked like a waste of time -- your precious time! And what better point of entry than the dreaded cover song -- the mainstay of soundtracks, best-ofs and the dead-but-still-stalking tribute album.
Our beleaguered bird-flippers decided to take the bait, but who knows, maybe there's a cover version buried in the belly of The Heap that could make them all excited enough to dish out some of those brown-nosed adjectives Dave Marsh used up on the Boss so many years ago. So sit back, relax and put on a slime-resistant poncho as our daring Rock Snobs play . . . "Suck 'n' Cover!"
This first cover our trio of enlightened scribes listened to was singer/songwriter and Academy Award-nominee Elliot Smith's version of the Beatles' "Because" from the soundtrack to the Kevin Spacey family drama/teen porn flick American Beauty.The song originally appeared on Abbey Road.
Dominic: Well, it's a pretty straight-ahead version of the song. It's not great, but it's not the worst thing in the world either.
Blake: Dude, this guy sounds like a chick.
Mehr: Well, Bill, he doesn't look like one, trust me.
Dominic: You ever notice how he's always wearing that ski hat.
Mehr: Yeah, it's like his trademark. He's always wearing that stupid blue knit hat. He looks like the tall guy from the Monkees. What's his name, the one who actually knew how to play an instrument?
Dominic: Mike Nesmith. Yeah, Elliot Smith is like the Mike Nesmith of this generation.
Mehr: What about you Blake?
Blake: (starting to doze off)
Mehr: Goddamnit, I told him not to drink that other 40 before we started (hitting Blake).
Blake: Huh? I'm up, I'm up.
Mehr: What did you think of the song?
Blake: The dude still sounds like a chick to me (goes back to sleep).
The next selection is a cover of Naked Eyes' 1983 hit, "Always Something There to Remind Me" by a ska-pop group called the Hippos from their album Heads Are Gonna Roll. The inevitable "happy ska horns" have been added to the song in a vain effort to augment the miniscule vocal range and deadpan delivery of singer Ariel Rechtshaid. To top it all, the cover photo for Heads Are Gonna Roll tries to replicate the Animals' 1964 self-titled debut -- except that the Hippo's don't really look like a group of tough working-class Manchester lads, but more like six guys from Orange County. Judging by the music contained on the disc, ripping off the cover of a No Doubt album would have been more appropriate -- although we can't decide which one of these puds should be forced to don the Gwen Stefani belly shirt and wisdom dot.
Blake: What is this shit?
Dominic: That sounds like Wall of Voodoo -- "Mexican Radio."
Mehr: No, it's a Naked Eyes cover.
Dominic: Jeez, they're already into Naked Eyes covers now. Of course this is the "happy" version.
Blake: I like the Naked Eyes version better. At least the singer sounded like he meant it. This guy obviously couldn't care less about the chick that left him.
Dominic: The singer has no voice. He's got the range of a kazoo. And what's worse is the cover of the record is an exact copy of the Animals' first album. So they're suckering people into buying this under the pretense that they might hear something like "House of the Rising Sun."
Blake: After a few minutes trapped listening to this, "We Gotta Get Out of This Place" would be more appropriate.
Mehr: Christ. Bad '80s pop gone '90s ska. Let's move on.