Archive for the ‘AV Club’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: COHEED AND CAMBRIA-“A Rush and a Push and This Land is Ours” (2010).

This AV Club Undercover is from last year.  Coheed and Cambria came in and covered this Smiths song.

As I mentioned the other day I liked just about every Smiths song.  So when I hear a song by them I pretty much automatically think, “Oh I love this song.”  And that’s true with this one.  This is a more obscure track of theirs, but since I was never one for just the hits, I know it and like it very much.  There’s something about the propulsive beat and the cool way Morrissey sings “oooohrush” that is really compelling.

But Coheed and Cambria covering it?  Coheed are a fascinating band in that they play beautiful acoustic melodies but also heavy fast metal.  Who knows what they’ll do with this song.

Well, they play it surprisingly delicate , and quite beautiful.  It’s actually a pretty straightforward cover as well.  But he brings a wonderful yearning to the vocals that the original is lacking (probably because of the tempo of the song).  This is a great cover.

[READ: July 19, 2011] “Shacks”

I didn’t know who Jones was before I read this.  Of the 5 Starting Out pieces this was the least inspiring.  (I’m not sure if any of them were meant to be inspiring, actually).  I guess what I mean is it focused pretty on one thing and stuck with it.  There wasn’t any “moving forward” feeling.

When he went away to college he wrote letters to the girl he loved who did not love him back.  That’s pretty much it.

The thing I didn’t get om the piece was his use (twice) of the, to my ear, awkward phrase “little shacks of life we can build”. I understand what he means, I just don’t think it really flows very well.  I’m not even sure if it works within the confines of the piece.  Like is a shack a shelter or a compartment? (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: TOKYO POLICE CLUB-“Everybody Wants You” (2010).

Tokyo Police Club explained that they chose this song for their AV Club cover because they had no history with it. Of course they had only three songs to choose from in total. I have a history with this song–I loved it back in the 80s, and I still think the riff is pretty great.

The song is incredibly simple–just that riff and a chorus. TPC state that they’re going to have fun with the song.  And they do. TPC is known for their short, punky tracks.  So it’s no surprise that they start off playing the riff at what’s almost double speed.  They blister through the first two verses.  Then they slow things down for the final verse and keyboard solo.  For the outro they slow it down even further.  I kind of wish they’d have done an entire verse at that speed but oh well.

The cover feels like a Sonic Youth cover to me (could be that the lead singer looks (and sings) like Thurston Moore).  The only problem I have with the cover is that it’s very tinny.  The original riff was so bass heavy that this cover feels a little anemic.  Nevertheless, it’s enjoyable. And since I don’t listen to Billy Squier anymore, now I’ve got this version.

[READ: July 19, 2011] “Lost Limbs

I don’t know anything about Vice Magazine.   I have to assume, given the look of the website, that the fiction here is more about the story than Literature.  It’s funny to me that Bradford appears so much in these slightly-off-the-usual-path-but-not-entirely-obscure locations.

From what I’ve seen of Bradford he really revels in the quirk.  In the introduction to this story, he admits, “I myself have a chronic circulation issue with my lower right leg and expect one day to lose that foot.”  I wonder what’s up with that two years later.

The story starts out amusingly: “It wasnt until my second date with Lenore that I discovered one of her arms was missing.”  She was wearing a reasonably realistic prosthetic on the first date and he is apparently not that observant.  On the second date she is wearing the claw-like prosthetic which is far more practical–this is when he notices her missing arm.

They date a few times but it doesn’t go very well.  She tells him about how she got the prosthetic (in a van accident).  But she doesn’t seem altogether truthful.  He fantasies about what sex with a person wearing a prosthetic would be like, but he doesn’t ever get to find out.  Rather, their relationship just kind of peters away. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: SHARON VAN ETTEN-“She Drives Me Crazy” (2011).

Sharon Van Etten (man, she is everyhwere!) went to the AV Club studios and did a cover of The Fine Young Cannibals’ “She Drives Me Crazy.”

The first time I heard the Fine Young Cannibals song was on MTV.   There was pretty loud guitar and then Roland Gift walked up to the screen and sing in a prposterous falsetto.  And I laughed really hard because I thought it was some kind of joke.  Over the years I’ve grown to really like the song.  I also really like Sharon Van Etten, who sounds nothing like Roland Gift.

This cover demolishes the oirginal.  Van Etten makes it her own–slowing it down outrageously.  She makes it twangy and more creepy sounding.  And obviouly, she removes those big crashing guitars and sharp angles of the original. There’s some backing vocalists (and a full band) so the song had breadth.  And it is fairly recognizable once you can follow the lyrics (it’s much slower, so it takes a good 45 seconds before you fully recognize the song.  But it is so very different. 

I enjoy the original more, bit this is a cool interpretation.

[READ: July 20, 2011] “Where I Learned to Read”

I don’t know who Scibona is.  As such, I’m wasn’t sure how interested I was in his past.  I mean, did I really need to care about him in this piece (by that token, should I really care about any of  the authors in the Starting Out series?). 

Anyhow, it’s an interesting introduction to the author.  This story talks of how Scibona deliberately tried to fail out of school.  He was happily making $3.85/hr at KFC and new he could get transferred anywhere in the country to another KFC.  It would be an easy way to travel.  So who cared about school.  Who cared about reading?

Well, he did, actually. As long as it wasn’t assigned, he very happily read everything he could get his hands on. But then senior year, a girl showed him a brochure for St. John’s College which offered a Great Books program.  It was just reading. Reaing great books.  Not books about Aristitle, but by Aristitle.  And it was in New Mexico.  He was hooked. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: PARTS & LABOR-“Runaway” (2011).

Parts & Labor cover Kanye West’s “Runaway” at the AV Club

I didn’t know Parts & Labor when I played this, but I was really curious to see how any band of non-rappers would perform this awesome Kanye West track.  It’s a testament to how great the song is that Parts & Labor (who totally kick ass) can play around with it as much as they do (they wisely don’t rap) and retain the greatness of the song. 

Parts & Labor seem like a pretty standard punk-type outfit: guitars, bass, drums and keys (although some of their studio albums belie that simplicity).  But the keyboardist (who opens the song) is playing notes while manipulating effects pedals on top of the keyboard.  It’s a great introduction.  The bassist (with his amazing beard) sings in a couple of different registers that work out the angst of the song wonderfully. 

But for me the guy I can’t stop watching is the drummer. He opens the track with his snare drum on his lap.  While keeping the beat with one finger on a floor tom he is clearly playing the snares of his snare drum with a guitar pick.   When the song breaks half way through and he puts his snare back, he is a maniac of intensity and cacophony. It is amazing.  The second half of the song is a cathartic release for the noisy beginning. 

This is a wonderful cover.  And I’ll be checking out Parts & Labor on Spotify to see what I’ve been missing.  Watch it here.

[READ: July 20, 2011] “High School Confidential”

Continuing with the New Yorker’s Fiction Issue, we get this Starting Out essay from Téa Obreht.  Now, Obreht’s story was the least believable of the five for me.  As you can see by this photo, Obreht is adorable.  Now we all know people who blossomed from an ugly childhood or had a youthful gangly phase or grew into beauty or whatever.  But the introduction of her essay, when she describes herself in quite unflattering terms seems like it may be, if not over the top, then at least wishful thinking.


She claims she was awkward, tall, gangly with coke bottle glasses a huge gap in her teeth from one that never came in.  In reading it again I guess it’s not as dramatic as I though the first time, and corrective work could fix those things, but still.  It seemed a bit like that MTV show Awkward (second mention in a few days–it’s been a slow summer, TVwise), in which the main character is way too cute to be considered an outcast.

Too cute to be that awkward

But hey, maybe cute people have problems too. 

It’s when Obreht moves past that and talks about being made fun of for what she wanted to be that things get interesting.  

Obreht has always wanted to be a writer and when she let her classmates known that, they picked on her (oh are you going to write about that).  But she pressed on.  She was most devastated when the stories she gave to a boy in confidence were soon being read, aloud, by a girl who hated her.

Maybe cute girls are unpopular too. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: SLOAN-“Cars” (2011).

When Sloan went to the A.V. Club to record their cover, they were disappointed by the selection.  Of course, that’s the game, so suck it up Sloan.  But they decided to do Gary Numan’s “Cars.”

Now, I feel compelled  to say that Gary Numan’s “Cars” may be my least favorite song of all time (it’s very close to Billy Idol’s “Eyes without a Face”).  I understand that “Cars” was “groundbreaking” or whatever.  But gah, it is boring and monotonous and just awful (and I say that while admitting that I like Phillip Glass, so i know from monotonous).  While I will admit that the riff is pretty great, everything about the song, from the performance to its endlessness (it’s like 8 minutes long, right?) drives me nuts.

And that may be why I love this cover so much.  It keeps the riff but it adds music to it.  All of that horrible “one guy with a cheap keyboard” sound is taken away.  It’s replaced by a great full-sounding band bringing live joy to the song.  I love that the whiny keyboard is replaced by a guitar and that the drummer rocks the hell out of the ending.  I mean really rocks the hell out of it.  Well done, Sloan.  You’ve been a favorite for years, and you’ve now redeemed my most hated song.  I think Billy Idol just peaked on my list.

You can watch it here.

[READ: July 20, 2011] “The Money”

Junot Díaz’ story in the New Yorker’s Fiction Issue is also a Starting Out piece.  This story is about how his mother always sent money home to her family.  No matter how little money they had, she would always scrimp and save and stash away until she had a few hundred dollars to send every six moths or so.

From Diaz’ other work, we assume that he was not a model citizen as a youth, but even he knew not to tamper with his mother’s money.  (Stealing from her purse was one thing, but the wrath of stealing from the “to be sent money” was unfathomable).

Then one week when they go on vacation they return to see that their house has been robbed!  Some of Junot’s things were taken as well as the money.  The Money!   (more…)

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Josh Caterer is the main guy behind The Smoking Popes, whose first album, Born to Quit, Morrissey has said was his favorite –and which is also not only no longer in print, it’s not available on Spotify! (the first album that I have looked for which was not available).

Anyhow, this cover comes from The Onion’s A.V. Club’s Undercover series.  (The current series offers a list of 25 songs from which the bands can choose to cover–but each time a song is chosen, it is removed from the list.  Soon, bands will cover songs they may not even like!)

Anyhow again, this cover is delightful.  I was going  to say that “Ask” is one of my favorite Smiths songs, but I think they’re all my favorite songs.  Nevertheless, this one is pretty high on my list.  And this version is, indeed delightful.  Caterer is accompanied by a guitar, a violin and a viola.  The strings cover most of those catchy melodies, while the guitars keep the song propulsive (you don’t even miss a rhythm section).  Caterer’s voice, while not as distinctive as Morrissey’s is perfect for the song.

Overall, an excellent cover.  Watch it here.

[READ: July 20, 2011] “Archeology”

This was the first of five “Starting Out” pieces in the New Yorker’s fiction issue.  The Starting Out pieces are one page (or less) and are a look into the author’s childhood/adolescence.

Egan, who wrote  A Visit from The Goon Squad, talks about what she wanted to be as a child.  First, she wanted to be a surgeon.  She saw blood and that was the end of that.  Then she thought that maybe she could be an archaeologist.  She desperately wanted to become one, even sending her resume (which was: high school and a desire to dig) to every place she could think of (only one even bothered to write back). (more…)

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