Archive for the 'The Smiths' Category

20
Sep
10

The Impossibility of Smiths Covers: Hand in Glove Tribute and First CTRR Giveaway

This post has a back story. And a reason for me to come out of the hiatus once again. I was quite surprisingly contacted by 24 Hour Service Station, a Florida-based record label that released a double-disc New Order Tribute Album earlier this year. They were looking for a decent cover of The Smiths’ Hand in Glove by an indie band for an upcoming Smiths tribute album. I would say I have a fair collection of covers by one of my favourite bands of all time (estimated at around 400), but it seems nearly no one covers Morrissey and Marr’s frenetic masterclass in metaphorical defiance of the Good People. The only version that immediately sprung to mind was of course Sandie Shaw’s, but not only was she not an indie band, her version wasn’t all that good. And then there was This Charming Band, which is essentially straightforward tribute band material, and there was a harmonica-inflected, dragging version from Christian Kjellvander and Lise Westsynthius. And another from someone named Gerard, whose version nearly gives me a panic attack. There was also that live version that Saint Etienne did, but that wouldn’t work either.

However, now I wanted to be helpful, and I was quite drawn to the challenge of finding a decent version of Hand in Glove. I found a couple of other very indie bands that had performed it live, but didn’t appear to have a proper recorded version. And they also weren’t terribly good. Just as I was about to despair and admit defeat, I realized that I actually knew a few indie bands, and perhaps one of them might miraculously have a version of Hand in Glove. It was a long shot. But the lovely Vanilla Swingers answered the call.

Though they didn’t have a version on-hand, Miles and Anne figured they could put one together and record it as quickly as possible, leading to a one-day recording session and a lackadaisical, understated gem of a cover version. Though they took the similar duet route as Kjellvander and Westsynthius, theirs was much more melodic and retained an aloof, knowing attitude without boring a massive hole of ennui through your head. And so it came to pass that one of my most-loved bands of the past few years supplied the title track of this upcoming tribute album for another of my favourite bands.

This tribute’s tracklisting runs thusly:

Hand in Glove – Vanilla Swingers
Paint a Vulgar Picture – True Tone
What Difference Does It Make? – Vampire Slayers
The Boy With the Thorn in His Side – Home
Frankly Mr. Shankly – Questionface
Last Night I Dreamt That Someone Loved Me – Pulse
Death of a Disco Dancer – Loomer
This Night Has Opened My Eyes – Underwater
Handsome Devil – I Buried Paul
Some Girls Are Bigger Than Others – Skinnys 21
There is a Light That Never Goes Out – Edison Shine
Girlfriend in a Coma – Thee Chinadoll
Reel Around the Fountain – Q-Burns Abstract Message
I Know It’s Over – Rosewater Elizabeth

I’ll be honest – I hadn’t heard of most of these bands (except for Vanilla Swingers) outside of the context of Smiths covers. Since this was a reissue of sorts, many of these tracks had been previously released (the only one I don’t remember hearing before is from Skinnys 21). And in listening to this album, I was struck by what I would call the impossibility of the Smiths cover. Cover versions are a tricky business at the best of times, but I’m usually most underwhelmed by the scores of recapitulated pleas for getting what you want and too many lights never going out, spluttering away in mediocrity. Sometimes it’s best if the light goes out – come, come nuclear bomb. Rather than bore me with one of my most cherished songs. On the other equally as maimed, glove-bereft hand, the artists try so hard to blaze a new, albeit often misguided, path that they bury or shred the essence of what Smiths songs are: a perfect balance of incisive wit and brilliant guitar melodies.

Is there something inherently difficult in producing a reputable cover version of a Smiths song? Or is it because we Smiths fans tend to be on the foamier side of rabid about the band? Out of all the Smiths covers I have, I like less than ten. And I would say the majority of them part neatly on the side of twee and subtle, coming from mellow artists like Trash Can Sinatras, Stars, and Tom Rosenthal. An exception to that would be the spikier interpretation of Panic from Carter USM. My issue with Smiths covers seems just as difficult to articulate as the covers themselves.

Does this mean that drastic experimentation dilutes what I love about Morrissey, Marr, Rourke and Joyce, namely the apex of jangly guitar rock for outsiders with that ever-present Mancunian drizzle, first numbing my social ineptitude and then comfortably warming me with a renewing fortitude to face another day? Perhaps I really am just too close to The Smiths, and as an entity essential to my flawed personality, they just can’t be effectively improved upon in my ears. Maybe it’s the fact that their mythology along with that of fellow Mancunians, Joy Division, is the closest I get to believing in the incredulous. They’re simply too transcendent.

The tracks I tended to favour on this collection weren’t far from the original feel of The Smiths’ creations. Vampire Slayers’ loose, shambolic cover with some jazzy trumpet is a fun romp; the haunting, tremulous version of I Know It’s Over by Rosewater Elizabeth is a delicate, reverent interpretation. Home’s version of The Boy With the Thorn in His Side seems promising with its woozy, off-balance musical backdrop, but somehow the vocals veer just a wee bit too much into incoherent, distracting wonkiness. And while Q-Burns Abstract Message’s instrumental rendering of Reel Around the Fountain is undoubtedly dreamy and beautiful, I wouldn’t necessarily notice that it was the song it purported to be.

Because I feel an attachment to this album and its eponymous track, I have decided to run my first contest/giveaway. 24 Hour Service Station has printed up a limited number of CD versions of Hand in Glove: The Smiths Tribute, and are kind enough to let me run this contest. To enter to win one of three CD copies, please email me with your favourite Smiths cover version by midnight September 27, 2010 – please use subject line “Hand in Glove Giveaway.” Once the contest closes, I will draw three winners and contact them for mailing information.

**UPDATE** The contest deadline has been extended to midnight October 4, 2010. **UPDATE**

If you don’t manage to win a CD copy, you can purchase the digital one at iTunes or Amazon. And of course you can download the excellent Vanilla Swingers track below for free.

Hand in Glove – Vanilla Swingers

To give you a few more Smiths covers that I enjoy…

Handsome Devil – Parenthetical Girls

Please, Please, Please Let Me Get What I Want – Tom Rosenthal

The Boy With the Thorn in His Side (Live at the 1995 Meltdown Festival) – Jeff Buckley

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Gigs Attended

Arcade Fire w/ Bell Orchestre + Wolf Parade (2005)

Arctic Monkeys w/ Reverend and the Makers (2007)

Austra w/ Young Galaxy + Tasseomancy (2011)

Big Audio Dynamite (2011)

Billy Bragg w/ Ron Hawkins (2009)

Billy Idol w/ Bif Naked (2005)

Bloc Party w/ Hot Hot Heat (2009)

Buzzcocks w/ The Dollyrots (2010)

Damo Suzuki (2012)

David Bowie w/ The Polyphonic Spree (2004)

Diamond Rings w/ PS I Love You + The Cannon Bros. (2011)

Diamond Rings w/ Gold & Youth (2012)

Dragonette w/ Ruby Jean & the Thoughtful Bees (2009)

Frank Turner w/ The Cavaliers (2010)

Frank Turner w/ Into It Over It + Andrew Jackson Jihad (2011)

Franz Ferdinand w/ Think About Life (2009)

Gang of Four w/ Hollerado (2011)

Good Shoes w/ The Moths + The Envelopes (2007)

Hot Hot Heat w/ The Futureheads + Louis XIV (2005)

IAMX w/ closethuman (2007)

IAMX w/ Coma Soft + The Hourly Radio (2007)

Interpol (2007)

Janelle Monae w/ Roman GianArthur (2012)

Joel Plaskett Emergency w/ Frank Turner (2012)

Jonathan Richman (2011)

Keane w/ Lights (2009)

Lou Reed w/ Buke and Gass (2011)

Manic Street Preachers w/ Fear of Music (2007)

Manic Street Preachers w/ Bear Hands (2009)

Manic Street Preachers at Wanaja Festival (2011)

Mother Mother w/ Old Folks Home (2009)

Mother Mother w/ Whale Tooth (2011)

Mother Mother w/ Hannah Georgas (2012)

MSTRKRFT w/ Felix Cartal (2008)

Muse (2004)

Nine Inch Nails w/ Death From Above 1979 + Queens of the Stone Age (2005)

of Montreal w/ Janelle Monae (2010)

Owen Pallett w/ Little Scream (2010)

Patrick Wolf w/ Bishi (2007)

Prince (2011)

Pulp w/ Grace Jones, TV on the Radio, The Hives, The Horrors, Metronomy, Devotcka, Vintage Trouble (2011)

Rufus Wainwright w/ Teddy Thompson (2010)

Snow Patrol w/ Embrace (2005)

Snow Patrol w/ OK Go + Silversun Pickups (2007)

Sons and Daughters w/ Bodies of Water (2008)

Stars w/ Thurston Revival (2006)

Stars w/ The Details (2008)

Stars (2010)

Steven Severin (2010)

Stroszek (2007)

The Antlers w/ Haunter (2012)

The Flaming Lips w/ Ariel Pink's Haunted Graffiti (2010)

The Jesus and Mary Chain w/ Nightbox (2012)

The Killers w/ Ambulance Ltd (2004)

The New Pornographers w/ Novillero (2008)

The New Pornographers w/ The Mountain Goats (2010)

The Ordinary Boys w/ Young Soul Rebels (2006)

The Pains of Being Pure at Heart w/ Suun (2011)

The Rakes w/ The Young Knives (2006)

The Raveonettes w/ Black Acid (2008)

The Stills w/ Gentleman Reg (2009)

The Subways w/ The Mad Young Darlings (2006)

Tokyo Police Club w/ Smoosh + Attack in Black (2008)

TV on the Radio w/ The Dirty Projectors (2009)

Yann Tiersen w/ Breathe Owl Breathe (2011)

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The only certain thing that is left about me

There is no part of my body that has not been used

Pity or pain, to show displeasure's shame

Everyone I've loved or hated always seems to leave

Photobucket

So I turned myself to face me

But I've never caught a glimpse

Of how the others must see the faker

I'm much too fast to take that test

The Smiths Queen is Dead

A dreaded sunny day

So let's go where we're happy

And I meet you at the cemetry gates

Oh, Keats and Yeats are on your side

A dreaded sunny day

So let's go where we're wanted

And I meet you at the cemetry gates

Keats and Yeats are on your side

But you lose 'cause weird lover Wilde is on mine

The Clash London Calling

When they kick at your front door

How you gonna come?

With your hands on your head

Or on the trigger of your gun

Photobucket

Charles Windsor, who's at the door

At such an hour, who's at the door

In the back of an old green Cortina

You're on your way to the guillotine

Here the rabble comes

The kind you hoped were dead

They've come to chop, to chop off your head

Photobucket

Then you came with your breezeblocks

Smashing up my face like a bus-stop

You think you're giving

But you're taking my life away

Photobucket

Won't someone give me more fun?

(and the skin flies all around us)

We kiss in his room to a popular tune

Oh, real drowners

Photobucket

Don't walk away

In silence

See the danger

Always danger

Endless talking

Life rebuilding

Don't walk away

Walk in silence

Don't turn away in silence

Your confusion

My illusion

Worn like a mask of self-hate

Confronts and then dies

Don't walk away

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You don't want to hurt me

But see how deep the bullet lies

Unaware I'm tearing you asunder

Oh there is thunder in our hearts

Is there so much hate for the ones we love

Tell me we both matter don't we

The Associates Affectionate

I don't know whether

To over or under estimate you

Whether to over or under estimate you

For when I come over

You then put me under

Personal taste is a matter of gender

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I wake at dusk to go alone without a light

To the unknown

I want this night inside of me

I want to feel

I want this speeding

I want that speeding

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You'll never live like common people

You'll never do what common people do

You'll never fail like common people

You'll never watch your life slide out of view

And dance and drink and screw

Because there's nothing else to do

Vanilla Swingers

All I have is words, words that don't obtain

And I feel I'm a stain on your horizon

So I stay away - it's easier that way

And there won't be no-one I need to rely on

Is it him, is it me

Or is there something only I can see

How did I get here, why do we blow around like straw dogs on the breeze

I'm a special one, what they used to say

But I've to stay on, finish levels-A

You don't need exams when you've read John Gray

The Indelicates American Demo

And nobody ever comes alive

And the journalists clamour round glamour like flies

And boys who should know better grin and get high

With fat men who once met the MC5

And no one discusses what they don't understand

And no one does anything to harm the brand

And this gift is an illusion, this isn't hard

Absolutely anyone can play the fucking guitar

JAMC Darklands

And we tried so hard

And we looked so good

And we lived our lives in black

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Plucked her eyebrows on the way

Shaved her leg and then he was a she

She says, hey babe,

Take a walk on the wild side

Said, hey honey, take a walk on the wild side

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Hide on the promenade

Etch a postcard:

How I dearly wish I was not here

In the seaside town...that they forgot to bomb

Come, come, come - nuclear bomb

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Back when we were kids

We would always know when to stop

And now all the good kids are messing up

Nobody has gained or accomplished anything

Wire Pink Flag

Prices have risen since the government fell

Casualties increase as the enemy shell

The climate's unhealthy, flies and rats thrive

And sooner or later the end will arrive

This is your correspondent, running out of tape

Gunfire's increasing, looting, burning, rape

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Well, maybe there's a god above

But all I've ever learned from love

Was how to shoot somebody who outdrew you

It's not a cry that you hear at night

It's not somebody who's seen the light

It's a cold and it's a broken hallelujah

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And what costume shall the poor girl wear

To all tomorrow's parties

For Thursday's child is Sunday's clown

For whom none will go mourning

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My body is your body

I won't tell anybody

If you want to use my body

Go for it

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Oh it's opening time

Down on Fascination Street

So let's cut the conversation

And get out for a bit

Because I feel it all fading and paling

And I'm begging

To drag you down with me

Mansun Six

And you see, I kind of shivered to conformity

Did you see the way I cowered to authority

You see, my life, it's a series of compromises anyway

It's a sham, and I'm conditioned to accept it all, you see

Japan Gentlemen

Take in the country air, you'll never win

Gentlemen take polaroids

They fall in love, they fall in love

Photobucket

We just want to emote til we're dead

I know we suffer for fashion

Or whatever

We don't want these days to ever end

We just want to emasculate them forever

Forever, forever

Pretty sirens don't go flat

It's not supposed to happen like that

Longpigs The Sun

There's no perfume I can buy

Make me smell like myself

So I put on perfume

To make me smell like someone else

In bed

Calvin Harris I Created Disco

I got love for you if you were born in the 80's, the 80's

I've got hugs for you if you were born in the 80's, the 80's

Photobucket

Does his makeup in his room

Douse himself with cheap perfume

Eyeholes in a paper bag

Greatest lay I ever had

Kind of guy who mates for life

Gotta help him find a wife

We're a couple, when our bodies double

Simple Minds Sons and Fascination

Summer rains are here

Savaged beauty life

Falling here from grace

Sister feeling call

Cruising land to land

No faith no creed no soul

Half a world away

Beauty sleeps in time

Sound and fury play

Bloc Party Silent Alarm

North to south

Empty

Running on

Bravado

As if to say, as if to say

He doesn't like chocolate

He's born a liar, he'll die a liar

Some things will never be different

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LCD Soundsystem

Well Daft Punk is playing at my house, my house

I've waited 7 years and 15 days

There's every kid for miles at my house, my house

And the neighbors can't...call the police

There's a fist fight brewin' at my house, my house

Because the jocks can't...get in the door

Johnny Boy

I just can't help believing

Though believing sees me cursed

Stars Set Yourself

I am trying to say

What I want to say

Without having to say "I love you"

Josef K Entomology

It took 10 years to realise why the angels start to cry

When you go home down the main

Your happy smile

Your funny name

Cocteau Twins Bluebell

Photobucket

Doesn't she look a million with her hairagami set

Hair kisses 'n' hair architecture

Yes, she's a beautiful brunette angel from heaven with her hairagami set

Hair kisses 'n' hair architecture

Augment a beautiful brunette

New Order Power Corruption

How does it feel

To treat me like you do

When you've laid your hands upon me

And told me who you are

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You must let her go

She's not crying

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Baiting

Feeling like I'm waiting

Modern times

Valentines

Hating

Hating to distraction

Just leave them alone

Whipcrack

Girls in the back

Girls in the back

Puressence Don't Forget

They say come back to earth and start getting real, yeah

I say come back to earth and start getting real

I know I can't

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So I walk right up to you

And you walk all over me

And I ask you what you want

And you tell me what you need

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The problem of leisure

What to do for pleasure

Ideal love a new purchase

A market of the senses

Dream of the perfect life

Economic circumstances

The body is good business

Sell out, maintain the interest

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Sitting in my armchair thinking again and again and again

Going round in a circle I can't get out

Then I look around thinking day and night and day

Then you look around - there must be some explanation

And the tension builds

Psychdedelic Furs

India, India

You're my love song

India, you're my love song

In the flowers

You can have me in the flowers

We will dance alone

And live our useless lives

Ladytron Light Magic

They only want you when you're seventeen

When you're twenty-one

You're no fun

They take a polaroid and let you go

Say they'll let you know

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No consolation prizes

Spit out your lies and chewing gum

Cut off your hair yeah that's it!

If you look like that I swear I'm gonna love you more

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All the neighbors are startin' up a fire

Burning all the old folks, the witches and the liars.

My eyes are covered by the hands of my unborn kids

But my heart keeps watchin' through the skin of my eyelids

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Prince charming

Prince charming

Ridicule is nothing to be scared of

Don't you ever, don't you ever

Stop being dandy, showing me you're handsome