Annette Brown, Lifetime The story of June Carter Cash comes to life in the…
- Posted on Feb 6th 2009 5:30PM by Rob Smy
The Bad Plus, Joined by Wendy Lewis: 'For All I Care' (album): Asking a buttoned-up jazz trio to cover "normal" music is a bit like asking Einstein to do your physics homework. But it's not about how you do it, it's the style in which you do it; and these cats, assisted by vocalist Wendy Lewis, have style in spades. The opener on 'For All I Care' is the Pluses' take on Nirvana's 'Lithium,' and it's nothing short of sublime. Although spacious, the rendition never gets lounge-y, with the band replacing Cobain's "yeah, yeah, yeah" chorus with a wickedly discordant piano part, the bass and snappy drums prowling around in the background. Lewis' vocals are suitably mournful, a little Aimee Mann-like and totally fitting.
Our favorite cut on the album is a little more upbeat -- a cover of Heart's 'Barracuda' opens with a thunderous bass that would leave Iron Maiden's Steve Harris weak at the knees. The drummer could be playing live for drum 'n' bass guru Roni Size, the pianist goes bat poo and climbs to the very top of his instrument's range. At the bridge the band heads off into outer space, taking the listener with them, before plummeting back to earth and that galloping bass line. Bad[ass] Plus, indeed.
The Spinto Band: 'Summer Grof' (single): These Delaware indie-pop sparklers press all our pleasure buttons with this singalong stomper. Vocalists Nick Krill and Thomas Hughes have a great high-low harmony going that carries throughout the song; but it has to be said that their almost-lazy delivery style leaves the listener wondering a bit what this ditty is all about. There's some reminiscing about a house and what took place therein; there's mention of a girl named Janine who's not fond of cars, and then there's a promise of not lying "anymore" proffered in the chorus. Other than that, it's anyone's guess what's going on here -- look for the lyrics online -- you'll see a lot of questions marks in a lot of parentheses after a lot of the lines.
It's hard to be frustrated by this for long, though, as the tune is so darn catchy. It has everything -- hand claps, the aforementioned warming harmonies, a New Order-like bass line, some quirky Nintendo-esque keyboard action and a pretty decent brassy guitar solo. In short, there's really nothing to dislike about this tune. Now, get out there and see if you can transcribe the words -- we challenge you!
The Black Crowes: 'Oh Josephine' (single): We adored 'Remedy' and that cover of 'Too Hard to Handle' from the Robinson boys. Both were ballsy, bluesy and catchy as hell, so we were expecting good things when we found this single nestled amongst the 'Stack. The track starts promisingly enough, Chris Robinson's smoky voice accompanied by twanging guitars and a Hammond organ. But the chorus! "Oh Josephine, you're dressed in black/Your eyes are blue." Clichés abound. Sure, the Crowes are "that" kind of band, a little Creedence, a little Skynyrd ... It's not unsurprising lyrical fare from them, but they've been around since 1984 -- couldn't they come up with something interesting to say about their song's subject? It feels like "this will do" was the attitude here.
Same for the music: The bridge hints things are about to get a little more interesting, "it's too late to play it safe, so let's let it all ride ..." the drumming builds and then, dammit, they do play it safe: We get more of exactly the same. No guitar solo from brother Chris, just unexciting, pedestrian stuff. Put simply, this is a letdown, and a clear case of "not tonight, Josephine."