No Rhyme Or Reason 10.06.06: Other People's Music
Posted by Michael Melchor on 10.06.2006
Helpful hints on judging covers and a hunter's guide to Mash-Ups.
So now you listen ‘cause I'm omniscient. And that may be the easiest opening lyric I've ever thrown out there, but I can't help it. Not after hearing Ill Nino's cover of the song (with a helping hand from Chino Moreno of Deftones), which I owe Ben Czajkowski a great deal of gratitude for pointing out. In a span of two days, this has become one of my favorite covers ever.
"Zombie Eaters" was epic in scope and scale as it was – two things people don't normally associate with Faith No More. At the time, the general populace was all over "Epic"'s dick – too much to pay attention to songs like this and "The Real Thing" that represented journeys akin to The Iliad more than mere songs. Alas, attention spans aren't what they used to be. Frighteningly, they're much shorter now.
But I digress. Ill Nino and Moreno understood the feel of the song and, rather than scream over it to make it sound "modern" and "cool" (witness the unconscionable mauling of "Enjoy The Silence" by It Dies Today for a prime example), they were as faithful as a loved one could be. The music, of course, is slightly newer; there's a lot more crunch than there was before. That only serves to enhance it. It's almost impossible to improve on something that good, but they managed to do it.
And that's why I'm a sucker for a good cover. Good being the operative word; I could still mow down every one of the Pussycat Dolls with a tank for nearly killing the memory of Marc Almond's "Tainted Love", even if they did attempt the "Baby, Where Did Our Love Go" coda with it. However, for every shitty cover, there's one that makes it all worthwhile.
The aforementioned "Zombie Eaters" notwithstanding, my favorite cover ever is Cradle of Filth's take on Iron Maiden's "Hallowed Be Thy Name". I love the original to death; Bruce Dickinson brought some real fear to the tale of a man about to be led to the gallows pole. Dani Filth takes it one step further, adding an ethereal, supernatural feel to the tale of impending death. As far as the music goes, Maiden was tighter than so many of their contemporaries at the time (and still are) and lent the added element of desperation that Dickinson fed on. Behind Dani, the rest of CoF does the same, but with a lot more gymnastics. Not enough to overshadow the song, the update adds to it – and, in the middle break, delivers one of the singlemost powerful pieces of metal ever.
So, it seems that, to make a great cover, all one has to do is stay faithful to the song and update it slightly, right? Not really. There are other ways to do it.
At the risk of sounding cheesier than a Hickory Farms holiday gift set, Dynamite Hack's redux of Eazy-E's "Boyz ‘N Tha Hood" takes the song in a completely different direction. Whereas Eazy delivered a account of a day in the life of a gangsta, Dynamite Hack gives the same song – cuss words and all – as a nerd's fantasy, complete with acoustic levity in place of Dr. Dre's heavy beat. The effect is startling no matter how many times I hear it. It's also funny as hell, poking a hole in the hard-ass thug mentality.
I've heard literally hundreds of covers, ranging from outright horrible to fucking decadent. There are more out there; I'm always on the lookout for more of the best.
It isn't just covers that float my boat, either. Lately, I'm all about a good mash-up, too. Oh, come on, don't gimme that dumb look; you know what I'm talking about. Even if you don't scour the web for these things (like I do), you've no doubt heard Linkin Park and Jay Z team-up to combine their hits on Collision Course.
That's what we're talking about – the melding of two or more songs together. I'm not going into details about the best like I did below, because some of this stuff defies description. Instead, let's see where you can find some!
Mashuptown.com is a great place to start. The site features selected tracks you can download right from the site as well as links to some of the DJs that are warped enough to put them together. This is an easy way for a music fan to spend an entire afternoon downloading songs and following links to the DJs that make them. Trust me, I have. Several times.
Among those DJs, one of my favorites is Aggro1. As his name would imply, Aggro is more prone to take industrial or hard rock songs and mix them up, often times with pop hits or classic rock tracks. The result is as tasty as it sounds.
Another I dig on is Totom. Totom is an apparent old-alternative/new wave head; loves playing with stuff like David Bowie and Depeche Mode. He also has two (~!) mash-up albums to his credit. That's right, two albums completely mashed-up and remixed; With Boots, a re-do of Nine Inch Nails' With Teeth, and Bastard Pet Sounds, a cock-up of the Beach Boys' Pet Sounds (which he doesn't feel as strongly as he once did about it, to hear him tell it). With Boots is worth its megs in gold, I can assure you.
Some of you may have even heard this kind of thing on the radio. Most likely, if you have, it would be courtesy of Skratch ‘N Sniff. A duo consisting of DJ Mike Czech (see what they did there?) and Malcolm, their show is now in several major markets throughout the US. (Thank God, one of them is Orlando.) While there mixes aren't sometimes as polished as others who do this, take heed to the fact that it's because they do theirs live. Some work, some don't – but give them points for creativity. You can hear some examples for yourself on their site and draw your own conclusion.
Anyway, there's a world of covers and remakes out there waiting to be had. Don't try the usual channels, because all you'll get then is the usual crap. Exploration is a great way to find some great remakes.
And this coming from a guy that can't stand Hollywood's constant regurtitation. Imagine that.
And that'll do it for this installment. I'll apologize for the length (or lack thereof), as lack of sleep (for literally a dozen reasons) catches up with me now. Once again, I'll be back in two weeks, only this time with something a little longer.