Great covers

I downloaded a giant directory full of covers last week and have been working my way through them. I love cover versions of classic songs, but only when the cover finds a new angle on the song. So if you're an acoustic vocalist, there's little point covering Cindi Lauper or Tori Amos. Ditto if you're a metal band, don't cover Black Sabbath unless you've got some really new idea.

Interestingly, the best ones I've found so far have been power/glam metal covers. Dungeon (who seem to have been through a Spinal Tap-worthy number of drummers) covering Blondie's Call Me is just brilliant. It's amazing how perfectly the chorus fits in the glam metal style.

Next one I've liked is Helloween covering Abba's Lay All Your Love On Me, which was always a pompous, over-the-top pop tune and so makes an excellent glam metal track.

It's interesting that the glam metal bands seem to understand what kinds of songs they should be plundering as there seem to be a lot of people covering music in their own genre, which is almost always a disaster. Acoustic vocalists, look to completely different genres like metal, thrash and the like. Tori Amos' cover of Smells Like Teen Spirit is a great example. I'm also a huge fan of The Goards' cover of Snoop's Gin and Juice.

So I'm still only about a third of the way through this directory. I'm sure there'll be a few more gems.

Fratellis and Gainsbourg

I've been listening to a couple of great albums recently. I'm really getting into Costello Music, from Glasgow band The Fratellis. Great spiky guitars and catchy, almost Beatles-esque tunes. Loads of fun.

Also I've finally picked up Monsieur Gainsbourg Revisited, a compilation of covers of Gainsbourg songs by modern artists. I spotted this first in a record shop in Milan but they wanted €35 for it, so I waited until we got home to grab it.

It starts with Franz Ferdinand and Jane Birkin doing A Song for Sorry Angel with Birkin's breathless vocals, Kapranos' power and Ferdinand's trademark spiky, tight riffs.

Jarvis Cocker and Kid Loco do I Just Came to Tell You that I'm Sorry, and from this I think Cocker could spend the rest of his life covering Gainsbourg--he's just perfect for it.

Frontline, Brian Molko and Francoise Hardy do Requiem for a Jerk (Requiem Pour Un Con), which is another great match of voices with songs for the Placebo frontman.

Lola Rastaquouere becomes "Lola Rastafari" in the hands of Sly & Robbie with Marianne Faithful. Fantastic stuff.

So two very good albums. I'm really enjoying them.

New music

Bought some CDs recently. Remember them? Maybe ask your grandparents what those were.

The Spinto Band - Nice and Nicely Done is by a band we caught after going tothe Barfly in Camden to see Melbourne band The Morning After Girls (who were crap: too many guitar heroes for one band). If you like Bright Eyes and the like, you'll love these young lads from Delaware. Highlight of their set was the silly medley they did at the end including Was (Not Was)'s Walk the Dinosaur, with all the moves!

controller.controller - History is a Canadian band I heard on GPC and I'm hoping to catch them at the Barfly in a few weeks. Kind of somewhere around Life Without Buildings, PIL, Joy Division sound. There's some full-length tracks on the web site.

The Brian Jonestown Massacre - Tepid PeppermintWonderland is an anthology from these guys who are doing their best with the laudable goal of keeping music evil. Turns out they're playing in Germany around the time we'll be there, so hope to see them. Maybe they'll end up playing Roskilde, since they're in the area around the same time.

Review: Ladytron - Witching Hour

The NME famously described Ladytron as "...a teasing glimpse of how Britney Spears might have sounded, had she been born in the GDR and a heroin addict." Their latest album, Witching Hour, gets them back on track for that laudable ideal, after the last album, Light & Magic, kind of missed the point, getting a little to involved in the wholeelectro thing.

Witching Hour is pure pop with something new for their sound, grinding guitars. Each track has a catchy chorus matched to subversive, very knowing lyrics. "Sugar" seems to be taking the same tack as an older track, "Seventeen", exploring somewhat ponderous teen ideas--something for the dirty old man in all of us--with something new for Ladytron, guitarish noise. "Destroy Everything You Touch" has stadium rock pads and a grinding bassline behind its seriously catchy effected vocals.

All in all, probably their best album yet. Debut album 604 certainly gave us a fresh and exciting new sound, but Witching Hour is vastly more polished.

Ozomatli

Ozomatli at the Islington Academy; 23rd
August 2005

Just got back from seeing Ozomatli at the Islington Academy. Wow what a gig. Holly's comment: "I wish I'd seen them at Glastonbury." From memory I think everyone at Glastonbury heard the crowd chanting "Ozomatli Ozomatli".

Tonight was no different, despite the much smaller venue. The crowd chanting along, jumping on command. Ozomatli are an amazing live band, really get the crowd involved. Brilliant.

If you get a chance, go and see them. Their recorded stuff doesn't match up to the live set, though it's still good.

Adult. playing next Monday

Adult. from Detroit are probably the most exciting techno act I've heard this century. Kinda somewhere like New Wave Techno. NME's description: "If John Lydon was a mad scientist, and he decided to make a fembot lover out of a skip load of The Human League's old sex toys, his metal mistress would be Nicola Kuperus of Detroit's Adult."

Friends of mine just saw them in Moscow and said the gig was fantastic. Here in London, for some reason, they're supporting another band from Detroit who I've never heard of called "The Dirtbombs" and the gig is on a Monday.

Gig is at 93 Feet East, so expect "ironic" haircuts and too-kool-for-skool people.

Sucker for a good bridge

In songwriting, I'm a sucker for a good bridge in a song. To make an ordinary song in the standard Verse-Chorus-Verse-Chorus-Chorus-fade turn into something extraordinary for me, all you need to do is change key and insert a bridge before the two ending choruses.

Been listening to the Sarah Blasko album I picked up in Sydney, and Don't U Eva works for me in this way. Love that bridge and its synth backing line. Lovely.

Bought loads of Aussie music

While I've been here in Sydney I've bought a huge amount of Aussie music. Stuff you just can't get in London.

Combat Wombat - Unsound $ystem seems to be a grouping within the Elefant Traks keiretsu. From my listens so far, I would say it's the best release on the label yet. Really quite serious, intense lyrically with tightly polished beats. Really impressive.

Decoder Ring - Decoder Ring is fantastic, immense soundscapes. I've been hearing their stuff for ages on Triple J's Sound Lab programme. Glad I've finally managed to get hold of the album. Love it.

Prop - Small Craft Rough Sea is another brilliant soundscape type piece. Kind of like Tortoise and Godspeed! You Black Emperor, only I think better. Track 9 is an incredible xylophone number. The album is probably my fave from the buying spree. If you like some of the soundtracks by Philip Glass, I'd recommend checking these guys out. I'm going to try and hunt down their latest album now.

Hilltop Hoods - The Calling we saw these guys play at Cargo in London about a month ago, when it was snowing in London. Absolutely incredible live set, and the place was jammed to the rafters with happy Aussie hip-hop fans. Looks like there's good demand for Aussie hip-hop over there. Incredibly, the guys weren't financing their tour beer fund with merchandise sales, so I couldn't buy their album. Finally found it now, though their distributor needs to pull his finger out because I had to trawl through four shops to find it.