Suck 'n' Cover
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.
Dominic: Yeah they should have called this album It's Ska-ta Suck.
In what was obviously a thinly veiled effort to torture his two writers for their habitual missing of deadlines, Mehr pulled out a recently reissued Wayne Newton album -- Wayne Newton Sings the Hits of the '70s -- and proceeded to play a handful of genuinely painful Newton renditions of '70s Me-era cheese: Neil Diamond's "Song Sung Blue"; Paul Simon's "Loves Me Like a Rock"; Bread's "Baby I'm a Want You." However, our ever-perceptive snobs reserved their bile-filled comments and amateur psychoanalysis for Wayne's rendition of Gilbert O'Sullivan's 1972 weeper, "Alone Again, Naturally."
Mehr: It's hard to do an injustice to this song.
Blake: Well, he's done it.
Dominic: Hang on, I want to hear if he achieves the same level of despondency as the original.
Blake: Fuck, I've only been listening to this for 30 seconds and I'm getting despondent.
Mehr: When I listen to Wayne, I always get the feeling there's something weird going on.
Blake: Yeah, whenever he sings, you get the picture that he's in the closet. He sounds so gay.
Dominic: You might have a point. Listen to the words. He says, "I never cried when my father died." But when it gets to the part where his mother dies he sings "I cried and cried all day." There's obviously some issues there.
Mehr: But this is a Gilbert O'Sullivan song, so are you saying he's gay or Wayne Newton is gay?
Blake: (incredulous) Anybody who sings this shit is gay. Don't you have any Clash records?
Dominic: I'm saying singing this song is a rite of passage to fruitdom.
Mehr: Blake, what's your take on the whole "Wayne is gay" thing.
Blake: I don't know. But if I'm forced to listen to anymore of this shit, I'm gonna go sissy myself.
Next, the Snobs turned their ears to a pair of Queen covers. The first was a version of "We Will Rock You" by Snoop Dogg as it appears on Fox Sports Presents Game Time: 19 of Your Favorite Stadium Pumping, Crowd Rocking Hits.
Dominic: Wow, this is perfecting the art of taking a bad song and making it worse.
Mehr: When all else fails, just turn it into a rap song. Thankfully, it's fairly short.
Blake: What's the point of these jock-jams CD's anyway? Are you supposed to put it on and start doing the fucking "wave" in your living room?
After suffering through the Dogg's take on Freddie Mercury and Company, the Snobs endured an electronic, techno cover of Queen's "Fat Bottomed Girls" by someone named Jade Barbee. Based solely on Barbee's monotone, flatline reading of the song, it's safe to assume he was in a coma for a significant portion, if not all of this recording.
Dominic: Holy shit! Is this serious?
Dominic: Man, he makes Gary Numan sound like Otis Redding.
Blake: Talk about a lack of passion.
Dominic: It's like he wants to take the fat-bottomed girl home so she can move his couch for him. What other possible use could this guy have for her?
Blake: At least with this, you sense that he knows he's bad. You can tell just by the way he's singing. With Snoop Dogg it's like he's doesn't really know how horrible he is.
Mehr: So Blake, your vote is for techno-boy?
Blake: Yeah, he's the real fucking G.
Next, the Snobs worked through a double bill of Frank Sinatra covers. First up was country crooner/John Merrick look-alike Lyle Lovett doing a paint-by-numbers rendition of "Summer Wind" from the For Love of the Game soundtrack -- yet another tepid Kevin Costner film where the rapidly aging, too-bland-to-be-real hunk once again finds true love through sports.
Mehr: Could this possibly be any more boring?
Blake: What I want to know is at what point did it become open season on these songs?
Dominic: Lyle Lovett is so unconvincing. Sinatra sings the shit out of this. There's a persona that you have to have to do this kind of song right.
Mehr: Yeah, Frank used to sing this through clenched teeth 'cause he was pissed off that Ava left him, and he never got over it.
Blake: That's right. When you've loved and lost the way Frank has, you know what life is about.
Mehr: Lyle Lovett isn't exactly the kind of guy who you can see using the word 'broad' or pushing a photographer through a plate-glass window.
Blake: He's a candy-ass.
Dominic: It's too bad Frank's not alive. Then he could have Jilly Rizzo go kick in Lyle Lovett's teeth.
The Snobs immediately followed that up with another completely different, though equally bad version of "Summer Wind" from former Chem Lab front man Jared Louche's solo debut, Covergirl. Louche puts the all-too-common industrial/techno spin on the beloved Sinatra classic.
Mehr: It's says here in the press release that this album features the "ritual disembowelment of classic songs by Roxy Music, Iggy Pop, Leonard Cohen, and Frank Sinatra."
Blake: At least the guy is being honest. I'm so bored of single guys who own their own recording studios putting their own pedestrian take on these great songs, man. The advent of the home recording studio has fucking ruined music. Now any yob with 200 bucks and a blank tape can try and make his own Pet Sounds and torture us all.
Dominic: (Listening to the droning, latter day U2 sounding number) The way this guy is doing this song sounds like Bono. Or at least it sounds like something that Bono would think is a good idea.
Mehr: He would probably think it would make him more ironic.
Dominic: Yeah, well ironic and moronic are almost the same word.
Finally, after a long dry spell, the Snobs stumbled upon a good song. It came off of I'll Take Care of You, a new all-covers album from former Screaming Trees front man and heroin addict Mark Lanegan. Lanegan delivers a terrific take on the Gun Club's "Carry Home."
Mehr: Thank God. Some real emotion finally.
Dominic: Yeah, it's that Southern California early '80s junkie longing that was so popular.
Blake: The only people that ever liked the Gun Club were people who were junkies. I swear to God, it's like an exclusive society. Shoot heroin, get a Gun Club record.
Dominic: It's part of the initiation.
Blake: Yeah, I always used to wonder why all those drug dealers down on Catalina Street in L.A. carried those huge knapsacks around. They're full of Gun Club records.
Dominic: I guess that's when you know your addiction has gone too far; when you end up at the trade counter at Zia selling your Gun Club records.
Though the Lanegan song was a pleasant and welcome bit of relief, the Snobs served themselves another shit sandwich courtesy of teen bluesman Jonny Lang's version of the Rolling Stones' "Paint It Black" -- once again from the For Love of the Game soundtrack.
Dominic: Is this guy any relation to Jim Lang, host of The Dating Game?
Blake: He must be.
Mehr: Man, this is horrendous.
Blake: Is he one of those 15-year-old blues singers?
Mehr: Yeah, he is. I think he's from South Dakota or something originally.
Dominic: Ahh, yes, the cradle of the blues.
Mehr: He was picking cotton down on the plantation in Fargo.
Dominic: How did this guy get to be a blues singer, anyway?
Mehr: I think it's kind of like Ralph Macchio, you know the Karate Kid, in that movie where he sells his soul to the devil to play guitar.
Blake: Well, it's pretty obvious this guy has no soul.
Dominic: Yeah, is there any way to get this guy on heroin?
Blake: And get him some Gun Club records for Chrissakes.
Last, but certainly not least, our Snobs faced the ultimate test: listening to a cover of the Beatles' "Day Tripper" done by goth-metal quartet Type O Negative on its new album World Coming Down. This postmodern mouth-breathing metal band has been known to throw in the occasional inappropriate cover -- including Seals and Crofts' "Summer Breeze" on its 1993 album Bloody Kisses.
Unfortunately, the English language does not contain sufficiently graphic adjectives to describe the butchering that this Lennon-McCartney classic gets at the hands of these four Glenn Danzig-looking mutant half-breeds. The song is an interminably slowed-down, beefed-up, fuzzed-out version that sodomizes George Harrison's guitar riff, and molests the Fab Four's melody, while lead singer Peter Steele does his best Scooby-Doo imitation barking "day trip-par, day trip-par" over and over again.
Blake: Listen to this. On everything they do, it sounds like they're overcompensating. Type O Negative sounds like a support group for people with sexual-identity problems.
Dominic: Jesus, look at the picture of these guys. They all look like Glenn Danzig.
Blake: It makes sense that they all look like Danzig. He's like the Bill W. of sexual-identity support groups. If anybody has a penis that's a half-centimeter long, it's Glenn Danzig.
Mehr: Man, look at them. The one guy on the far left looks like the guy from Friends cross-bred with Glenn Danzig. And the guy on the far right looks like the other guy from Friends crossed with Glenn Danzig.
Dominic: Which forces us to ask the question: Is there some strange covert, government-sponsored genetics experiment being conducted to see what happens when you splice the DNA of Matthew Perry and David Schwimmer with Glenn Danzig's DNA?
Mehr: Now, if Type O Negative would only cover "I'll Be There for You," then we'd be in business.
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