Tag Archives: The Beatles

“Farmhouse”

phish
Phish
Farmhouse, 2000

This isn’t a post I wanted to write, and not just because it’s about Phish. As a fan of The Dead and other assorted jam acts, I don’t have an aversion to the band like some do. Phish’s output as a recording entity is fine, just fine: inoffensive, technically accomplished, whitebread like nobody’s business. And I can see the appeal of their live shows and the community that’s grown up around them. But listen, they’re … they’re just not for me. And like little else in life, I can state this fact with integrity knowing I’ve put in the time thanks to Scott Aukerman and Harris Wittels’ hilarious and now-departed “Analyze Phish” podcast. Wittels, as you may be aware, passed away two weeks ago at just 30 years old, leaving behind not only his popular podcast and a respected career as a writer and comedian, but perhaps the thing he loved most of all — Phish itself. Wittels aficionados know he was a devoted “phan” who followed the band on tour when he could. He also made no secret — on the podcast, in interviews — of his heavy recreational drug use, how it went hand-in-hand with the concert experience, how it inevitably crept into his daily life. The problem is clear now, of course, in the light of day. All the anecdotes that used to amuse listeners have betrayed darker meaning in the wake of his passing. But life marches on — Harris’ memory, and his work, and the music he loved are still with us. Here’s to you, Harris … I didn’t know you personally, but you mattered just the same. Thanks for sharing your time with us.

Did you want me to write about the song too? Well listen, it’s a fine song, just fine … a kind of weird, knowing (I think) mash-up of “No Woman No Cry” and “Let It Be.” About as safe as 21st century songwriting gets, I suppose — and in a world like ours, there’s nothing wrong with that.

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“It’s All Too Much”

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The Church
A Box of Birds, 1999

I don’t know if there’s a right way to cover The Beatles, but I feel pretty strongly that The Church’s take on Yellow Submarine’s “It’s All Too Much” is one good way to do it. For starters, in the vast reinforced canon that is The Fab Four’s, “Too Much” is more curio than crowned, arguably the least-known song in the film. Second, it’s not like The Church’s version is even all that different from the original — it’s the same psychedelic attack only more, aided by a 30-year advance in studio technology. The guitars are bigger and more distorted, and there’s a bounce to the rhythm section that was missing in George Martin’s watery original mix, but other than that? No new tricks. Steve Kilbey’s multi-tracked vocals don’t even deviate all too much from George Harrison’s. So go figure: a great song by a great band can still be great even when someone else plays it. The trick, as ever, is knowing your lane.

[audio https://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/u/14312140/Church%20Its%20All%20Too%20Much%20Beatles%20cover.mp3]

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“How Do You Do”

600full-david-grohl
Dave Grohl
Touch Soundtrack, 1997

Dave Grohl: your new music sucks, dude! You’re in classic-rock hell now: too much actual singing, too many boring ‘70s weak-ass riffs. The Colour and the Shape still holds up, man. I know, because I listened to it this week right after streaming the new one, Sonic Highways, which … the less said about that title (or album art) the better. Tom Petty’s latest is named Hypnotic Eye, for crying out loud — it’s like you guys switched bodies. Anyway, there was a stretch of time after Nirvana in the 90s — a span of several years in fact — where you ruled as a power-pop songwriter. It was like the perfect blend of kind-of-still-grunge-but-cleaner and kind-of-moving-into-radio-pop-but-not-quite-there-just-yet. And then the same year as Colour, you flipped the script and scored a Paul Schrader indie flick, based on a book by Elmore Leonard. I mean: that’s pretty edgy, dude! And you wrote a great song for that movie, a song which almost no one knows but I’m lucky to have stumbled across in my dorm room c. 1999 thanks to Napster. “How Do You Do” is everything that used to be good about Foo Fighters all in one song, and it proves once and for all that you were what was good about Foo Fighters because you recorded it on your own. It’s catchy, it’s high-energy, the drums kill and like the best pop songs — from The Beatles to yep, Nirvana — it never wears out its welcome. In Your Honor, I’m playing this one on loop today. Everyone still likes you here — how could we not?, you’re our Dave Grohl, the only one we’ve got! — and we’ll keep rooting for you until you decide to call it a day. But seriously, dude. Sonic Highways?

[audio https://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/u/14312140/03%20How%20Do%20You%20Do.mp3]

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“About You”

teenage fanclub
Teenage Fanclub
Grand Prix, 2005

Epic, shiny, big-gesture power pop. There’s an art to this kind of thing, and as many have noted, Teenage Fanclub does it as well as anyone. The Scottish Big Star devotees continued to hone their craft after 1991’s Bandwagonesque, settling into a slower, more polished, more textured guitar sound. The intent remained, as ever, a pursuit of perfect pop song craft. “About You” opens Grand Prix with a simple, swinging hook and lush harmonies. The words might mean something or nothing at all, but they’re delivered with such conviction that you can’t help but agree. I love that fifty years after The Beatles, bands are still making music that feels this way.

[audio https://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/u/14312140/01%20About%20You.mp3]

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