Grunta’s Pick: The Galvatrons play the chord progression U2 made famous

So much great stuff comes out of Melbourne that I’ve been dying to go there for a long time now. Just tonight on Master Chef NZ they were talking about Melbourne being the food capital of Australia. The games scene over there seems to be thriving (once again – let’s not forget old favourites Melbourne House and The Way of the Exploding Fist – classic!) and the music scene’s been off the chain for a long time!

Melbourne band the Galvatrons prove that you can’t keep a good chord progression down. U2′s “With or Without You” brought this progression to the fore thanks to the bass line taking front and center in the song, but many others have used the familiar chord structure in one way or another.

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Got to be Antiform

Since I’m on the subject of New Zealand music (or soon will be ; ), I thought I’d take the opportunity to pimp a workmate’s band (not that they need it): the stonkin’ breakbeat electronica wizards Antiform.

This track – featuring Tiki Taane of Salmonella Dub fame – is a balls out, breakbeat, rock-fest with warm and dirty analogue synths and a moving bass line of phat proportions.

If I’d had Musicalis Eclectica back when Josh gave us the “sneak preview” of this video I could’ve been one of those elite “insider” blogs and lorded my advance knowledge over you all as if anybody cared what I had to say <— see? that’s my effort at doing it after the fact xD. Nevertheless, the track rocked and blew my head off when I first heard it: it’s electronica breakbeat with a very rock heart that appealed directly to my Prodigy and Chemical Brothers tastebuds.

Antiform are playing a gig at Zen and Fu on Saturday the 6th of September; I’ll be there, lighting up the dance floor with my awkward old guy moves – hopefully I’ll see some of you there!

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Calexico Alone Again… or…

I was looking for a way to blog about Calexico – indie rock, mexican style (their new album’s due out in September) – when I came across this great little cover of 1967′s Alone Again Or, originally by psychedelic folk-rock proto-punk band Love (phew… thanks to Wikipedia for that description xD). The original made it onto Rolling Stone’s 500 Greatest Songs Of All Time: “The essence of the song is the contrast between the positivity of the tune and the bleakness of the lyrics, with the chorus “And I will be alone again tonight, my dear.” – [Wikipedia].

Oi! Co-producer and Band Leader of Love – Arthur Lee – added the ‘mysterious’ “Or” to the title of the song which was originally called Alone Again (by writer Bryan MacLean). Lee and co-producer Bruce Botnick also remixed the track to bring Lee’s harmony vocal to the forefront… Was a certain someone trying to shoehorn in on someone else’s work…? ^_o

Calexico kicks off with a great little spanish acoustic guitar intro and rocks into the classic mexican-style riff. Gotta love those mariachi trumpets!

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Retro Reminiscence: Three Strange Days by School of Fish

Apologies for yet another day of no postage as I had no machine upon which to post : (. My laptop deserted me utterly but it’s been rebuilt and will be up and going again tomorrow at last! : ).

Here’s a great little schoolboy pop-rock track from a band that didn’t make much of a splash over here beyond this one song. The vocal is delivered in a fairly staid way but the melody and the main guitar riff is catchy and memorable.

Oi! the most notable personal tale from School of Fish’s history is the death of frontman Josh Clayton-Felt by testicular cancer in 2000 at the age of 32 : (. Of the other members, guitarist Michael Ward eventually joined Jakob Dylan’s Wallflowers and drummer Chad Fischer went on to create the Scrubs original theme “I’m No Superman” with his band, Lazlo Bane.

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Mute Math – rock synth and Sumner vocals

If you haven’t discovered this electro-rock 4-piece from New Orleans then I hope this video will convince you to check them out further. The mighty fOo convinced me to give them a proper listen after my initial disinterest and I’m glad he did.

Darren King’s drumming is a big draw for me – the beats may be rock in spirit but Darren’s skill suggests training beyond the 4/4 basics. Paul Meany’s smooth vocal style is another point of interest – many compare him to a Police-era Sting for his soaring pop sensibilities. Roy Mitchell-C├írdenas plays bass lines that move in far more interesting ways than the average rock bass line and Greg Hill’s guitaring provides a familiar but necessary melodic-rhythm counterpoint to Paul’s keyboard lines.

All together they create a sound that – whilst still finding its feet imo – is a welcome fresh take on pop-rock. They’re currently vlogging from the studio and I’m looking forward to hearing what they come up with on the new album!

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Producer Spotlight: Rick Rubin

Rick Rubin has created some of my favourite albums in his time (MTV has called him “the most important producer of the last 20 years”; Rolling Stone says he’s the most successful producer in any genre). I won’t go into a detailed career retrospective or insight into his personal life – other articles have that covered better than I ever could.

Rick Rubin, Super Producer

I thought a post on Rick would be a good start to the Producer Spotlight series and a timely one given his production of the new Metallica album, so this spotlight takes a look at his work with bands across the spectrum of hip hop and rock – from Jay-Z to Johnny Cash via the Red Hot Chili Peppers.

It’s a lengthy post so apologies to those who want to skim – if you want to jump straight to the music I’ll sum up the waffle for you in one sentence: Rick Rubin helps artists to get their best music into recorded form and in doing so, creates new genres and redefines old ones.

“I don’t even know what a traditional producer is or does. I feel like the job is like being a coach, building good work habits and building trust.” – Rick Rubin

Production Style

Rick likes to pare things back to the essentials. Although his approach is, of course, too broad to pigeon-hole, he’s been known since the early days for stripping things back; he cuts down on extraneous instrumentation – no unnecessary strings or random overdubs – and allows the core instrument, vocal and rhythm to shine through. Rick’s goal is to present the natural ability and artistry of a musician or band; he encourages them to remove artifice and eschew the tendency to fall back on familiar touchstones (especially true of established artists who’ve had time to grow “habits”).

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When will the rock and folk hip hop covers end?

When will it end? I guess once people stop posting incessantly on their blogs about them xD.

So here’re a pair of pairs to celebrate this “quickly getting old” genre of ironic (and not so ironic) covers of hip hop by jealous white musicians ;-).

Pharrell’s “Frontin’”

by Jamie Cullum

Jamie smokes it up in this cover of Pharrell’s bawdy hip hop star boast-fest ;-). Apparently Pharrell loved it and wouldn’t leave the show he heard it on until they gave him the name of the artist and CD. Nice work by the Jamester!

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Outkast’s “Ms. Jackson”

by The Vines

Awww… it’s Andre’s song about his breakup with Erykah Badu (apparently)… and the Vines turn it into a whiny rock cover – nice!

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Ones that didn’t work…

What constitutes ‘failure’ to me? A cover that essentially amounts to a totally new song in your own style simply with another song’s lyrics inserted to garner a laugh or two. To qualify that, I do like songs that are a complete reimagining/reinvention – but if you’re going to cover a song you should have more of a reason to do it than to simply score a few ironic chuckles. Unless you’re Richard Cheese, of course – but in that case, it’s okay cos your whole act is based on that sort of schtick.

Nelly’s “Hot In Herre”

by Jenny Owen Youngs

In a stunning about turn I’m going to quote a Youtube commenter here (stunning because 95% of Youtube commenters are either socially inept or 10 years old and I barely even read half of them, let alone quote them):

I’m a big non-fan of Nelly, so I’d love any opportunity to see him ragged on. This video, though, is sad, and reinforces stereotypes of caucasian folksingers as rhythmically challenged, completely out of touch with modern music, and seriously lacking musically.

Horrible idea, even more horrible execution. To cover a song well, whether you’re paying tribute or poking fun, you need to have some idea of what makes the original song work. (maxhomie)

Needless to say, I have to agree to some extent… If you’re going to cover a song – even if it’s a mock – at least have some comprehension of the song or genre you’re mocking so you can present that in some way (or your take on it). Slapping the lyrics over an unoriginal and uninspiring chord progression doesn’t constitute a cover to me *shrug*. I prefer covers that bring something unexpected and fresh and/or showcase the virtuosity of the cover artist. Sadly, Jenny does neither (and I like her other song).

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N.W.A.’s “Straight Outta Compton”

by Nina Gordon / Jay Brannan

I couldn’t find Nina Gordon’s cover but I guess she should get kudos for being one of the pioneers of folk/hip hop cover mockery. Imo that’s the only reason she got any coverage – because of the uniqueness of the idea at that time. Her song didn’t stick around on its own merits like Matt Weddle’s “Hey Ya”.

Niggaz With Attitude launched Dre and the whole gangsta rap movement. And gangsta rap reminds me of the World Wrestling Federation – lots of prat – I mean frat boy posturing and testosterone laden unintentional comedy (and I love gangsta rap btw – I’m going to wax lyrical about my love for g-rap in a future post and scare away my two readers one day). That’s two things that Nina got right with her cover – she reinvented the tune at least, and her version highlights the ludicrosity of the posturing in the lyrics (don’t hate on me – I love you Dre!).

So she did do something original… which is a bit more than we can say for Jay Brannan here, who does a cover of her cover… O_o (just kidding, Jay – I like the Left-Eye rap from TLC’s “Waterfalls” you added in the middle – now it’s a TOTALLY different song. Ed – apparently he didn’t add that – it’s in the original… my bad xD Well! I said I didn’t like Nina’s cover… how’m I expected to remember every detail of it… ; )

Note: Parental Advisory – Extreme Lyrics

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Steve Miller’s Joker cranks on acoustic guitar

Todays clip: a retro classic played solo on the acoustic guitar by the man himself.

In the famous phrase: “pompatus of love” the word ‘pompatus’ was copied (by Steve Miller) from another song called “The Letter” by Vernon Green and The Medallions. In that song the made up word “puppetutes” was invented by Green himself to mean: ‘a secret paper-doll fantasy figure who would be my everything and bear my children’.
[From “The Straight Dope“]

So, to translate O_o:

Some people call me the Space Cowboy – I do lots of drugs
Some call me the Gangster of Love – I’m not very good at making love
Some people call me Maurice – Usually my friends, when they’re drunk
Cos I speak of the pompatous of love – And when I’M drunk, I tend to talk about my blow up doll

…too much midnight toking there, Steve…

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What would Blackstreet’s “No Diggity” sound like in an alt-rock context?

More a curiosity than a ‘hidden gem’, british indie-rockers the Klaxons cover Blackstreet‘s “No Diggity”.

Kudos to the boys for an unexpected cover choice; it may not be an entirely successful version (they would’ve been better off reimagining the song in their own style rather than essentially remaking it) but they acquitted themselves admirably as far as the instrumentation and musicianship goes.

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