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Sky Ape Radio
One man's quest for sanity via truth and music.
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Here is a playlist of my favorite tracks from the recently reviewed Cure tribute albums.


Here are the highlights from the Nine Inch Nails tributes.


And here are my favorite Radiohead tracks from those tribute albums.

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I found The Cure in high school via my friends Bob and Laura. Being a moody teen, the morose lyrics were right up my alley but I also really loved the textures and melodies the band created. There's a mood to a Cure album and it's not just horrific depression. The band has always had a playful side and a romantic side. The goth bits just always got more press.
Anyway, I found three Cure tribute CDs in my archives and here they are:

Get cured!Collapse )

That's enough reviewing of Tribute albums for the time being, though I suspect I'll return to it as I do have several dozen more. What will I do next as far as this re-listening project goes? I don't know yet. Maybe I'll review some new music for a change.

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DAMMIT!
I found another Radiohead tribute CD in the archives. I think I might have a problem with tribute album addiction.
Anyways, this one is from the Stereogum website and was a 10th anniversary tribute to Radiohead's seminal third album. It reconstructs OK Computer song by song with contributions from a few bands I've actually heard of (John Vanderslice, Vampire Weekend, My Brightest Diamond, Flash Hawk Parlor Ensemble) and a bunch I haven't.

OKX: A Tribute To OK Computer (2007) B-
It starts off less than great. Airbag and Subterranean Homesick Alien have cool arrangements but seem rushed. Like first drafts. I'd like to hear these bands really deconstruct the songs and put them back together. Paranoid Android is a mess. Vampire Weekend's Exit Music (For A Film) is weirdly dancey for such a sad song. I think I see what they were going for - rickety bombast - but it never quite gels for me.
(According to Google, I am only the 4th person to ever say "rickety bombast" and that makes me quite proud.)
David Bazan's Black Cloud's take on Let Down is glorious. I just wikipedia'd him to make sure he wasn't secretly Adam Duritz from Counting Crows moonlighting. This is great. It's emotional and genuine and raw and fun. I love it.
John Vanderslice's Karma Police is also great but in a different way. It's overly produced and tweaked and sculpted with a million vocal overdubs to haunting effect. If there's a positive connotation to the word "gimmicky" this song embodies it.
Fitter Happier is one of those songs that is what it is and it's not easy to find a new way to perform it. Samson Dalonoga opts for a conversational tone with sound effects behind him and it works but isn't worth re-listening to. It's an unenviable but necessary evil for a project like this. Still, I like it better than the wretched version of Electioneering that follows it. This is the one song on OK Computer that I don't love anyway and this version is abominable, making me wonder if these Cold War Kids hate it they hate it as much as I do.
The best song on OK Computer, Climbing Up The Walls, is done here by a Scottish band with which I'm unfamiliar - The Twilight Sad. The production is a tad muddy but overall I really like their sound and the frantic shambling mess they make of this track is pretty awesome. I'm going to investigate this band further.
Marissa Nadler does a fantastic plaintive take on No Surprises. The album has "b-sides" which include another version of this song by Northern State. It too is good but it occurs to me that it's just such a pretty song that having a woman with a pretty voice sing it is kind of a no-brainer. I'd like to hear an entirely different approach but I suspect it would be really hard to pull off.
(The other b-side is Chris Walla's rendition of the excellent Polyethylene (Parts 1&2) from the Airbag EP. As you'd expect from the Death Cab For Cutie guy, he's stripped the power but kept the melody and turned it into a lullaby.)
My Brightest Diamond creates a swirling vortex of strings, percussion, vocals and, I think, bassoon out of Lucky. It's mesmerizing. I like their stuff but this makes me want to go back and listen more closely to everything I have of theirs.
Flash Hawk Parlor Ensemble is an odd Balkan folk-tronic side project of The Decemberists. They close out this tribute with a very weird instrumental take on The Tourist with banjo, theremin, accordion and vocoder vying for attention against a backdrop of spaceship noises and feedback. It's less jarring than it sounds but only just.

So yeah. It starts out shaky but improves drastically (though it does dip in the middle again) and ends with 4 solid strong tracks and a pair of good b-sides. This is definitely the best Radiohead covers album I own. And evidently I own a lot of them.

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I hear: Beyond Belief, “Art Imitates Life”

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In gathering my various Cure tribute CDs for next week's pointless series of mini-reviews, I found a Radiohead tribute I had skipped. And it's actually pretty good.

Exit Music (2006) B-

This is the weirdest and most diverse of the Radiohead tributes I own. It's got full on rock songs, instrumental orchestral arrangements, plaintive jazz piano versions, tribal dance beats and everything in-between. It's very low-key and relaxing overall though my favorite is Mark Ronson's incredibly upbeat horn-infused trip hop rendition of Just. Seek this one out. There's only one dud in the bunch - Sa-Ra feat. the Sa-Ra All Stars do a plonking chaotic version of In Limbo that sounds like music from a Sid & Marty Kroft show. That was meant to be insulting but somehow makes it seem awesome. Oh well. The rest of this album ranges from good to great and it's all interesting stuff.

Stay tuned for next week's trio of Cure tributes featuring such diverse bands as Dismemberment Plan, Electric Hellfire Club, Tanya Donelly, Shudder To Think, Dean & Britta and DJ Bootious Maximus. I can scarcely wait. I love The Cure but haven't listened to them in a wicked long while.


Meanwhile, check out my band's first cross-timezone song. Wade and I wrote and recorded this 2000 miles apart via the magic of Dropbox. It's one of my favorite things we've done and I assure you every word is absolutely true as of this writing.
Mayhem Lettuce - I Am Not One Of You

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I hear: The Bastard Fairies - Maybe She Likes It

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I found three NIN tributes in my archives and I listened to them so you don't have to. On those 3 albums, there are 36 songs: 14 of them are from Pretty Hate Machine (representing every track except Kinda I Want To), 11 are from The Downward Spiral, 5 are from Broken and 2 are from The Fragile. The others are non-album tracks (Burn, The Perfect Drug and two versions of Suck).

Covered In Nails (2000) C-
This album tarts out really weak and gets only marginally better towards the end. The only real stand-out is Pig's demented lounge-industrial version of Head Like A Hole. Even bands I normally enjoy like Sigue Sigue Sputnik, Razed In Black and Rosetta Stone fall flat, resorting to trance beats and whispered vocals that lack any sort of emotional connection. What made NIN such a stand-out phenomenon amid 90's college rock and even among its industrial peers was always Trent's unflinching honesty about his own pain and weakness. Turning his songs into mindless dance numbers does a real disservice to his lyrics and his delivery.

Re-Covered In Nails (2001) C
The sequel starts out much stronger with former KMFDM members Guenter Schulz and En Esch tearing through Terrible Lie. Forever in service of their satanic gimmick, Electric Hellfire Club chooses Heresy and loads it with obscure occult film samples. As goofy as those guys are, I do kinda love them.
But the fun doesn't last as one of my favorite NIN songs, Last, is ruined forever by some horrible whisper-core band with no sense of rhythm. It's really bad, you guys. It hurts us! It freezes! It bites! My own ridiculous country-electronica fusion version is way better (for certain values of "better" wherein hilarious ineptitude is considered a feature not a bug).
Happily, the next few songs are pretty good but they all must bow to the ultra-sexy version of The Only Time by Godbox. It's exquisite. A perfect cover song should capture some of the spirit of the original via the new band's aesthetic. The Only Time is a sinful song and Godbox's version is crazy sultry and dark and I want to hear an album of their original stuff. Sadly, the only things I can find from them are this song and their appearance on a Smashing Pumpkins tribute album. Sigh.

Radiant Decay (2002) C
This one gives each of the songs a random remix title. Padded Room Mix! Digital Grind Mix! Whatever. They seem arbitrary and silly but overall this tribute is more even than the others. It has fewer terrible songs but also fewer genuinely cool moments which ultimately makes it kinda pointless, I suppose. NIN should make me angry or anxious or at least a little bit wrist-slitty. It should never bore me.
Good news arrives in a cool version of Last by Transparent. It's called the Bent Harassed Mix for some reason and totally makes up for the dreadful version by Lucifer Scale on the last album. It's not amazing but it at least gets the notes right and the dude can sing. It's followed by a laid back version of Suck which doesn't suck (The Electrolux Mix for those keeping score) by Etherphoria. Yeah, I've never heard of them either. We close with a plodding 8 minute version of Something I Can Never Have and a misguided hard rock version of Hurt. I think one could do a fast and heavy take on Hurt but this ain't it. It sounds like Starfuckers Inc with the Hurt lyrics pasted on top.


Next week: The Cure!  I have at least 3 Cure tributes of varying genre and quality.
Also, I'm collecting the stand-out tracks from each of these tributes and will eventually post a virtual mix-tape for you all to enjoy.

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I hear: Mayhem Lettuce - I Am Not One Of You

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When I get the hiccups, they tend to last for several hours. Sometimes days. Sometimes they're just annoying but more often than not they become painful, full-body convulsing spasms.
My high school science teacher used to cure hiccups in students by having them drink water while plugging their ears. This worked flawlessly for me for several years but for the last decade or so, it has consistently failed. I don't know what happened but it quit working. I then found another method online that worked great for a few years. I would stop everything, find a quiet place and focus on the hiccups. If I could clear my mind, get rid of all distractions and focus on waiting for the next hiccup to come, it would never come. I would meditate them away. That quit working too a few years ago. Nothing else I've tried has ever worked.
So I got the hiccups last night around 7 and after trying the usual water / ear plug / meditation methods with no effects, just gave up and tried to ride them out. I looked online for more methods and found people saying peanut butter works for them. I went downstairs around 9:30 and ate two big bites of peanut butter. I stopped hiccuping immediately. Could this be the new cure that will get me through the rest of my life? About an hour later, they came back. I tried peanut butter again but it didn't work. So much for that. I tried a few other methods I found online though stopped short of "digital rectal stimulation" and ended up just trying to go to sleep. I finally fell asleep around midnight and when I woke up at 4, they were gone.
This particular batch was not painful. Just annoying. So that's a blessing. I just wish it would have let me sleep earlier. I was exhausted after an awesome weekend of pawn shopping, birthday partying and water sliding. I was ready for bed by 8.

Anyway, they started up again about an hour ago so I went back online to find a new remedy. I found a site that had some science to back it up. I'm not sure how accurate the scientific description is but I tried it and it worked immediately. So far, anyway. I just pinched my nose shut and started gulping water. Evidently, the intake of water but not air forces your diaphragm area to use up all the oxygen and your body thinks its drowning so the spasms stop. Or something. I don't know. It worked and that's all that really matters. I hope it works again when they inevitably come back later today.

The best part, though, is that when I woke Willow up this morning, the first thing she said was "Did your hiccups go away, Daddy?"

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I hear: Dan Harmon and Jeff Davis - 63 - Everyone in the World is Stupid

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I have two Radiohead tribute albums that both came out in 2001 right after the critically adored (but completely lost on me) Kid A was released. I probably haven't listened to them since about them. It was fun to revisit them after a decade or so.

Anyone Can Play Radiohead is 13 alt-rock bands you've never heard of mostly doing straight covers of their favorite songs from The Bends and OK Computer. It's largely boring but a few tracks are decent enough. My favorites are the sung version of Fitter Happier by Silent Gray and Miranda Sex Garden's haunting take on Exit Music (For A Film). The last four songs on this compilation are not only skippable but nearly unlistenable. I can't tell if they really suck or if I'm just really old.

Plastic Mutations calls itself an electronic tribute. The results are mixed. There are more songs here that I cannot stand than on the previous compilation but the ones I do like, I like more. It's extreme unevenness makes this not so much an album I'd ever play but will definitely swipe a few tracks from and then toss the CD on the "sell" pile. The band Transient does good versions of High And Dry and Fake Plastic Trees but the show-stealer is Mitchell Sigman (whom Google tells me played keyboards for every 80's band you can think of) and his awesome glitchy robotic takes on Paranoid Android and Let Down. I would buy an album of this guy covering Radiohead or just about any other band I'm into.

Radiohead is one of those bands that quickly found a voice that wasn't quite like anything else in the mid-90's rock scene. It's hard to pinpoint what it is about those first three albums that sets them apart but after hearing a couple dozen attempts to replicate it (not to mention Coldplay's entire career) it's clear that whatever spark it is they have, they're not sharing it with anybody (except Muse).

Anyone Can Play Radiohead (2001) C
Plastic Mutations (2001) C-

Next week: Nine Inch Nails, for whom I have 3 tribute albums for some reason. That can't be good.

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So we're halfway through 2013 and my list-making compulsion is kicking in.Let's scratch that itch, shall we?Collapse )

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I hear: Erin McGathy - Dates With Dustin #5: Nilli The Israeli Solider

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So my wife went to a dinner party for work last night and didn't get home until late. Willow knew Mommy was at a party but she is four so her idea of what a party is differs greatly from mine (which itself differs greatly from the reality of grown-up parties let alone a boring work dinner party).
Willow drove up to me on her little toy dump truck with the plastic wheels that combine with my hardwood floors to make the LOUDEST NOISE ON PLANET EARTH and said "When I get big, I wish I could go to a party. Is Mommy dancing at the Party?" And on the word "dancing" Willow stood up from her truck did a little shimmy. "Or maybe is she getting married at the party?" Except she said "MAAAAARRIED" in a "sittin' in a tree; k-i-s-s-i-n-g" voice. Then her face got serious; Her eyebrows furrowed. "IS she getting married? IS she, Daddy?"
"I hope not!" I said. And Willow moved on, evidently satisfied.

About an hour later, I said something about Mommy being home soon and she said "No she won't!" in her "Trix are for kids!" voice. "She's getting MAAAAARIED!"
"WHAT?!" I said in mock outrage. "I guess I have to find myself a new wife."
Willow just kind of shrugged and said "Well, Mommy is just going to marry somebody else. And YOU can marry somebody else TOO!"
So I asked "What sort of person should I marry? The Supreme Court has recently expanded my options a bit, you know."
"You should marry a girl who likes you!" Willow said, matter-of-factly.
"That's not easy to find," I said. "And I don't know that anybody likes Daddy as much as Mommy does."
"Yeah, but you can just marry somebody else." Willow's eyes lit up. "Hey! Maybe Mommy can marry J'onn J'onzz!"
"Mommy gets to marry a superhero? Neat!" I said, imagining getting to be friends with Batman and go on adventures and stuff.
"Yeah!" Willow said. "And maybe YOU can marry Haille!"
*record scratch*
Haille is my niece and she's like 13. I think we need to expand Willow's social circles a bit to give me a wider field of make-believe wedding options for when my wife leaves me for a member of the Justice League.

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I hear: John Hodgman - You Made It Weird

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Garage Inc. (1998)

This is a 2 CD set of cover songs mostly by metal bands I've never heard of (Diamond Head, Discharge, Budgie) but also such rock luminaries as Black Sabbath, Blue Öyster Cult, Motörhead and other big names. The first disc was recorded for this release and the second is a compilation of EPs, b-sides and compilation appearances spanning the band's career. The guys are talented musicians and they clearly love these songs. I appreciate that they go for deep cuts instead of better known tracks (e.g. Sabbath's Sabbra Cadabra and BÖC's Astronomy).
This is a pretty fun project with a fine rendition of Bob Seger's Turn The Page, an unintentionally hilarious take on Thin Lizzy's Whiskey In The Jar and a scorching version of Queen's Stone Cold Crazy (though Trent Reznor's version is a million billion times more awesome). The fun only lasts so long as I'm familiar with the songs though. There are so many songs here that I just don't know that it gets old fast. It doesn't help that every damn track seems to be 6 minutes long (except for the one that's 11 minutes). Maybe this is amazing for fans of Blitzkrieg, Mercyful Fate and Anti-Nowhere League but for this cranky old man, it's all just noise. Okay, not really but it's super repetitive and boring. One could condense this 2 hours plus project into a tight 45 minute covers album and it would be much better but in 1998 still too late to really appeal to me. C


Part of this whole thing where I'm going back to revisit old musical loves is exploring what it is about a band that gives it staying power. There are bands I loved in the 90's that I still love now and others that have faded into the background. I'm sure there are people for whom Metallica has been their favorite band since the 80's who are still gung-ho into them and love every album. I wonder if those people are perpetual metalheads or if they've grown more well-rounded with age.
I can trace my music love back through all sorts of disparate genres. I've flirted with metal and classic rock and industrial and techno and punk and folk and jazz and rap and there are artists in all of those genres I still love and admire and listen to but I don't feel that I could define myself by any of them. If anything, I self-identify musically these days as a lover of geeky music. That includes nerdcore hip-hop but also filk and chamber pop and novelty music and whatever genre They Might Be Giants is in. It's about the lyrical content more so than the genre for me these days. If you have a clever song about Star Wars or old school Commodore 64 video games, I don't care if it's rap or rock or a lo-fi ukulele recording; I'll likely be into it.

Anyway, I think what I'm going to do next is eviscerate review some of the many many tribute albums in my archives. That should be fun. Happy summertimes, everybody.

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I hear: Norfolk & Western - Porch Destruction

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