The Singles Jukebox
The B-Side Special



and so Stylus’ B-Sides week comes to an end with the UK Singles Jukebox looking at, er, some B-Sides. Not just any old B-Sides, though, but a type of B-Side that, thanks particularly to Radio 1’s Live Lounge mini-sessions, has become increasingly commonplace in recent times – the cover version B-Side, where a band puts their own unique spin etc. etc. So sit back and enjoy as we dredge our ears through 15 of the bleeders, featuring Lemar’s adventures in Spandex, José Gonzalez’s crush with hairspray, Ladytron getting nekkid, Embrace getting their beef on, Sophie Ellis-Bextor being far too classy for this sort of thing, and Fergal Sharkey metaphorically turning in his metaphorical grave. There’s also something of a shock for Girls Aloud enthusiasts, a posthumous appearance from The Delgados, and The Futureheads and The Avalanches going that tiny step beyond mere remixing. Or sufficiently beyond mere remixing to be included here, anyway. Yes. Well. Anyway, to kick things off, Will Young takes his ‘jazzy’ reinvention just a bit too far…


Will Young – Hey Ya
[3.00]


Doug Robertson: Hey Ya is probably one of the least obvious choices for a cover, as not only is the original as ubiquitous as a Big Brother winner for their first two weeks outside the house, it’s also more than overstayed its welcome much like a Big Brother winner after three weeks outside the house. Will, however, is a bit of a contrary bugger, and has not only decided to cover it, but has managed to do a bloody good job as well, turning it into a laid back, lounge-like croon-a-long which suits both him and the song.
[7]

Jonathan Bradley: Slowing the party track of 2003 to ballad tempo? Yeah, because nobody ever wanted to dance to this, did they? One could argue that Will Young’s hyper-sentimental crooning reveals the emotion in the song only suggested at by Andre 3000, but my theory is that he sings everything that way, and any extra insight he adds is coincidence.
[3]

Edward Oculicz: The verses, particularly the first, of this are good; a nice cocktail-bar reshuffle. It all comes spectacularly undone in the chorus where, shorn of the sheer kinetic energy that made the original so danceable, Will turns it into a completely different song. And a lousy one. Reverence to source material isn't necessary, but deviation should mean the creation of something worthwhile, this is just aimless lazy wankery.
[2]

Mike Atkinson: I like Will, so I’m going to try and be nice. All credit to him for realising that, buried within the first half of Outkast’s “Hey Ya” there’s an altogether more melancholy song – not so much ripe for covering, as for uncovering – and there will be no minus points for attempting to uncover it via the medium of Supper Club Jazz, either. (This might get me lynched, but I liked Jamie Cullum’s versions of “Frontin’” and “High & Dry”. There, I’ve said it.) However, Young’s major interpretive mistake is to lose sight of the song’s essential concision, opting instead to ornament his delivery with a series of aimless trills and cadenzas which strive for soulfulness, but instead betray his unfortunate Jamiroquai-fanboy roots. Most annoying of all is the endless vamping around the phrase “nothing is forever”– pulled from its context, slapped around a bit, and then subjected to a slow, lingering Death By Faux Gospel.
[4]

Hillary Brown: Oh god. I wish my ears had never heard this. I would go back in time and stomp a million butterflies if I could change the future so that my eardrums would remain untainted.
[0]


McFly – Mr. Brightside
[3.33]


Doug Robertson: Now, we’re all agreed that the original is one of the best pop songs of recent times, aren’t we? Good. With that in mind it’d take a talent of a sort to turn it into the sort of unlistenable dross which sullies the good name of music. Well done, then, McFly, who have taken this, thrown it through a dequalitising machine and have come up with, well, a McFly song, with all the pain and anguish that that implies. The “It was only a kiss” bit, is particularly embarrassing, as is any point at which Danny, the role of whom is played by Alex from Fame Academy, starts trying to sing. Horrible.
[2]

Mike Atkinson: What interests me most about this whole collection of largely bashed-out-in-spare-studio-time, play-them-twice-and-forget-about-them oddities is trying to fathom out the varying intentions which lie behind them. In McFly’s case, I can only assume that this is part of a strategy of making the little kids feel like they’re not listening to a little kids’ band – ‘cos, you know, The Killers are like Dead Cool and all that, right? (You’ll have to construct your own translation into the current vernacular; I fear the task is quite beyond me.) But as a cred-booster, it’s such a strange choice – way too current, forcing all the obvious detrimental comparisons from NME-reading older siblings, and suggesting such a fore-shortened grasp of musical history. And they just don’t do anything with it, beyond an efficient carbon-copy workmanship which brings to mind those awful Top Of The Pops/Hot Hits albums that you could pick up for 99p in petrol station in the early 1970s.
[4]

Ian Mathers: I can barely take the outsized pathos of the original due to Brandon Flowers' knack for the theatrical, his ability to blow the whole thing up to almost operatic proportions (aka what unrequited love feels like at the time). This nails the guitars, and even almost nails the keen of the “open up my eager eyes” line, but it's far too limp to do the emotions justice. This could be any US pop-punk band. Also: Needs More Keyboards.
[5]

Edward Oculicz: Two words: SESSION KEYBOARDIST. "Mr Brightside" is a great pop song, but it's only a good pop song without those obscenely dated washes of decadent synth that spill longing and lust all over it. As it is, McFly could get over their voyeuristic horny with a simple wank. And the best kind of wank is a long synth wank.
[4]

Jonathan Bradley: Very clever, McFly. To simulate the emasculation the protagonist feels when imagining his lady with another man, you cut your balls off and performed this as castrati. But why do they sound so cheery about it all? The yelp of “It was only a kiss!” sounds so ecstatic that it could only be derived from whatever activities pleasure eunuchs most (a good game of Scrabble?). I’m giving 7 points for the removal of any potential that McFly can procreate, but they lose 6 because I still don’t think they understand what the song is about. Maybe they sung the words off a karaoke machine.
[1]


Busted – Teenage Kicks
[4.29]


Peter Parrish: It’s pretty tough to ruin “Teenage Kicks”, right? Well, you may be surprised to learn that Busted ... don’t! Ho ho, a self-indulgent double-twist there. Of course they don’t do anything interesting with it, either; like play it on xylophones with a flute solo, or something. Oh no, not our cheeky, squirrel-faced, wireless guitar goons. Instead they just mouth a verse each in fairly insipid fashion over a chunked-up copy of that lovely chord sequence. B-arely worth the bother.
[4]

Ian Mathers: Well, the opening proves that no one can totally fuck up that monumental descending guitar part, but the vocals are all wrong. They're trying to hard to be rock, but Feargal Sharkey didn't sound like rock – he sounded like a skinny, glorious spaz. The real crime is burying such a great melody under waves of distortion, but this is about 500% better than I expected it to be.
[4]

Edward Oculicz: Likeably thrashy and energetic, and also very reverent run-through, but again, damaged by being sung in that horrid Busted voice. But it does come across rather well, enthusiastic, danceable, giddy and with a nice, polite bluster.
[6]

Hillary Brown: Nicely recreated, as Busted seems to have the requisite snottiness, but I’m not sure why I’d bother to listen to this if I have the original handy. That is, cover versions need a point. Not live so much, where they can be unexpected and thus pleasurable, but definitely when recorded. Why did you record this? Why did you put it on the back of your single instead of simply including the original? I don’t think those questions have answers here, but it’s also not bad.
[5]

Mike Atkinson: Excuse me while I calm myself down for a moment. This shouldn’t matter. This shouldn’t matter in the slightest. I mean, poor old Peel’s not around to suffer the slings and arrows of Tory Boy Busted’s out-fucking-rageous fortune, now is he? And the rest of us can cope with the DESECRATION (eek, I said it), can’t we? Besides, it’s not even as if Busted themselves can be expected to comprehend the enormity of their crime. They’re young, why should they care, and this is no worse, in generational terms, than Sid Vicious pissing over “My Way” from a great height. Oh, who am I kidding, this is an utter abomination, and if this isn’t sitting RIGHT at the top of the page when our scores are totted up and the full article assembled, then I despair for our future as a nation.
[1]


José Gonzalez – Hand On Your Heart
[4.40]


Doug Robertson: Why does everyone, upon hearing a Kylie song, think that the best thing to do with it is cover it in an acoustic style? At least Jose Gonzales has shown slightly more imagination than normal by not covering Can’t Get You Out of my Head, the normal choice for lazy indie types who can’t simply like something unless they’re doing it an ironic way. There’s a reason why Kylie doesn’t do acoustic stuff, this is it.
[5]

Mike Atkinson: Oh God, it’s him again… that dreary acoustic bloke who sucked all the life out of The Knife’s “Heartbeats” a couple of years ago, now attempting to do the same job on Poor Brave Kylie? The sheer insensitivity of the man! She doesn’t need this right now! The trouble in this case being: if you take Kylie’s tangy seasoning out of the equation, all you’re left with is a drab slab of processed SAW/PWL sausage-meat, without any discernible flavour of its own. Hey, you want slow acoustic versions of pop classics, done by craggy Latin dudes? Then go seek Seu Jorge’s Bowie covers, from the soundtrack of The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou. He’ll see you right.
[2]

Peter Parrish: Take a ‘cheesy’ pop hit, put your sensitive face on and sing it slowly over the gently plucked strings of your battered old acoustic. It rarely, if ever, fails. Quite cynical, slightly clichéd, but, admittedly, always fairly engaging--especially since it can force some critical re-assessment. Didn’t like Kylie’s version first time around, eh? But hark ... those lyrics are actually rather fantastic; perchance it is worth a revisit. Now you have two songs to enjoy. B-utiful.
[7]

Hillary Brown: When I don’t know the song, I like the song better? Or maybe it’s just that this one wraps it up in 2:40. Not terrifically exciting, but I’m a sucker for your basic descending guitar line.
[5]

Edward Oculicz: Pretty. Pretty boring, though. The original is actually a really quite disturbing lyric when you think about it, and Jose's performance somehow manages to be even less cognizant of this than Kylie, who gave a fantastic half-giggly girl, half worldwise woman sheen to its technicolour backing.
[3]


Lemar – I Believe In A Thing Called Love
[4.83]


Mike Atkinson:“This week, I’ve decided to do something a little different for the judges, and for the voting audience back home. It’s a tough song, and not the sort of thing I’d normally go for – but this show is all about challenges, and stretching myself as an artist. I’ve been working really hard on it all week, together with my voice coaches, and I only hope that my interpretation does it justice.” “Lemar, I’ve got to tell you: on that stage tonight, you were a disaster. Hold on, hold on, let me finish, you’ll have your say in a minute. Lemar, you looked nervous, you were trying too hard, and as for starting and ending the song with Marvin Gaye’s “What’s Going On”… what were you thinking of? It was a car-crash of a performance, and I think you might well be in serious trouble this week.”
[3]

Doug Robertson: In which Lemar undoubtedly makes ‘I Believe in a Thing Called Love’ his own. Unfortunately, Lemar making a song his own generally involves making it so saccharine that Jamie Oliver is thinking about starting up a high profile campaign against him. It’s not without it’s charms, but to be honest, I’d rather hear The Darkness, and that’s not a phrase I ever expected would pass my lips.
[4]

Ian Mathers: Not, sadly, quite as awesome as his cover of “Vertigo” (which slays the original six ways to Sunday), this starts with better material and so can't go as far. He blows the “A-OK” line (clearly the heart of the song) and even the chorus doesn't have the original's sheer speed-fuelled charm. Points for mimicking the “gee-tar!” bit, and a valiant effort, especially when he chucks in Marvin and “All My Life”, but ultimately he can't quite pull it off.
[6]

Edward Oculicz: It's obvious a great deal of thought has been put into this. Lemar avoids replicating Justin Hawkins' screeching tics but keeps the obscene melisma, and puts it over a really quite well done backing - cheap soul as befitting its live environment, but nicely minimal, allowing him to attack the song in a way that means it doesn't matter if it's a cheap shot or a loving homage. It just works.
[8]

Hillary Brown: Better conceptually than in practice, as Lemar’s voice is kind of gratingly sincere. The acoustic nature does emphasize the melody, but the particular guitar tone is too metallic.
[3]

Jonathan Bradley: It’s a pretty great idea adding watery guitar and soul to Darkness pomp-rock, and the verses and bridge live up to the glam-metal goes Motown promised by the Marvin Gaye interpolation at the start. It all falls apart when the chorus arrives, though; one falsetto yelp and the illusion is broken and we’re forcibly squeezed back into Justin Hawkins’ skin-tight pants, which is not a comfortable place to be forced into.
[5]


Girls Aloud – Girls On Film
[4.86]


Jonathan Bradley: Oh, fuck this. We’ve had two Girls Aloud tracks on the Jukebox this week, and after adding those to their oeuvre of mystifyingly lauded tracks, I can finally declare: the empresses have no clothes. Or, more importantly, they have no talent. I don’t care what the popists say, I don’t care what the indie kids who call this a guilty pleasure say, excessively exuberant skanks with what sounds like a monkey behind the mixing board does not equal great pop. Just because you add ratty guitars to your dreck doesn’t mean your song is any better. Any points given here are solely due to Duran Duran.
[3]

Mike Atkinson: Suffering hair-straighteners, this is enough to make me come over all Rockist in my old age middle youth. How DARE these manufactured Reality TV Pop Moppets, with their weedy, indifferent, processed, pick-and-mix counter at Woolworths so-called voices, DESECRATE the CHERISHED memories of True Vocal Artists such as, er, Simon Le Bon? Anyway, another argument (and one which I fully expect to hear expressed in an adjacent paragraph) would have it that the essential blankness of the girls’ performance is actually a perfect foil for the glossy vapidity of Duran Duran’s original. You choose, listener. Still, it’s nice that they’ve replicated the original guitar chops so precisely, and there are some pleasantly funky percussion flurries to keep you amused along the way.
[4]

Doug Robertson: A cover so good that it was resurrected for their tour. Here Girls Aloud take on Duran Duran and easily prove themselves to be not just girls on film but girls on top as well, besting the original in any way you’d care to mention. Ignoring Le Bon and friends’ more bored, dispassionate take on the song, Nicola and the others give it a sparkly polish and perfom with a knowing wink and a sassy shimmy, becoming the song’s protagonists and end up sounding far cooler than the rest of us could ever, ever hope to be.
[8]

Peter Parrish: Somehow, even flimsier than the original. Duran Duran crafted a sneaky illusion with smoke and mirrors (and by ‘smoke and mirrors’ I mean ‘video featuring naked ladies’). Here, the plastic nature of the song is revealed to be nothing more than a tacky, cling film wrap with some dubious spangly stars glued on. Yes, it’s shiny, but the briefest look or touch could bring instant disaster. Already pretty unpleasant, now it’s downright squalid. B-gone, before I catch something I might be ashamed of.
[2]

Ian Mathers: My ears can't decide if this is a perfect form/content match or not, but in many respects this is similar to West End Girls' recent cover of “Domino Dancing”. Both don't really add anything to the original, but they're not any worse, either. It's the stereotypical case of “if you liked the original you'll like this” and vice versa. The problem is, “Domino Dancing” is great, and “Girls On Film” is one of the worst of Duran Duran's big singles.
[6]

Hillary Brown: A little scrubbed clean when it’s girls doing this kind of objectification song rather than boys. I know there’s probably some kind of empowerment point to it, but this is not as interesting as the Duran Duran (a phrase I never thought I’d write).
[4]


Goldfrapp – (Let’s Get) Physical
[5.00]


Edward Oculicz: A bit TOO clever-clever for my tastes, taking all the fizz of the original and replacing it with flat air and an uncharacteristically flat, charismaless vocal performance from Alison on this. Which is a shame, because the backing is spectacular, recasting the song completely from aerobicised heart-starter to frosty come-hither-if-you-dare-boy menace. But the juxtaposition with the airy words and the icy music just doesn't come off.
[4]

Jonathan Bradley: Completely separate to any considerations of this track’s value as a cover, it is enjoyable purely as the missing link between Felt Mountain Goldfrapp and contemporary electro-sleaze Goldfrapp. Alison Goldfrapp removes any trace of Olivia Newton John, and sounds like she actually understands that getting physical doesn’t necessarily mean aerobics class.
[8]

Mike Atkinson: It would be easy to perceive this as a smirking piss-take of Olivia Newton John’s aerobicised, flagrantly be-headbanded original – but the way I see it, Goldfrapp have taken a song which was already cheerfully aware of its own ludicrousness, and have actually stripped it of kitsch, thus imbuing it with a genuine sense of erotic potency for the first time. (Mind you, our Alison is clearly giving that porta-theremin some serious welly round her unmentionables towards the end, the saucy minx. Still, the theory stands.)
[7]

Ian Mathers: This makes the same mistake, although to a lesser extent, as the Postal Service's horrible cover of “Against All Odds”: When one has access to great over the top pop, one should not try to make it less fun. At least Goldfrapp manages to get partway towards making “Physical” into something slinky and almost threatening, but this song was never going to be good without bursting into Technicolour at some point.
[2]

Hillary Brown: I suppose the point is that it’s icy and distancing (Is that “space flute” I hear on the keyboard?), but it’s, uh, icy and distancing. The beat is fun, but not nearly 5 minutes worth. No deodorant necessary.
[4]

Peter Parrish: I was hoping for a rousingly slinky performance, but it never quite happened. Perhaps the pairing of two similar elements caused some kind of freakish chemical melt-down; like trying to squeeze Totti and Del Piero into the same team. Except this version of Totti likes disco and Del Piero’s taken to wearing crazy glam trousers. Either way, Goldfrapp will probably choke during the big tournaments. Um .. wait, what are we talking about? Oh right, yes. B-musing let down.
[4]


Embrace – How Come
[5.50]


Mike Atkinson: If I were being flippant, then I’d say that as my indifference to Embrace is matched only by my indifference to D12, then the two elements nicely cancel each other out. But that’s the sort of cheap shot to which I would never stoop. There’s an awful lot of this sort of “genre-busting” cultural cross-pollination going on with these B-sides, isn’t there? R&B singers covering rock, indie bands doing hip-hop… before now, I hadn’t quite realised to what an extent this was happening. All of which rather numbs my response to Embrace’s shot at translating Eminem’s Middle American trailer park angst into their own idiom of dour, drizzle-spattered Northern English angst. It basically works well enough – give or take the odd linguistic dissonance (do Yorkshire homeboys “beef” with each other?), but then I guess that’s part of its charm.
[5]

Doug Robertson: ‘How Come’ was a pretty dull, leaden, lifeless D12 track, so it’s a pretty suitable and obvious choice for Embrace to cover, even though I’m sure they thought they were being incredibly leftfield and off centre by choosing this. Admittedly it is a lot more interesting than your average Embrace track, mainly due to the nagging “Oh, I know this song, who did it again?” feeling which echoes around your skull until the chorus ‘kicks’ in.
[5]

Edward Oculicz: This is an original melody, no? The first half of the chorus is absolutely mesmerising; such layers of hurt, affecting, working both with the original but creating something new at the same time. The rest of it can't live up, but there's something creepy about the verses that fits with the song's tone and is nicely at odds with Embrace's usual fare. Quite a risk, well pulled-off.
[8]

Hillary Brown: Unrecognizable, but not necessarily in a bad way. That is, it’s obviously been run through the Coldplay machine, but for that kind of thing and especially that kind of thing applied to this kind of song, it would be fine to listen to if it didn’t also somehow feel interminable.
[3]

Jonathan Bradley: This was always one of the more enjoyable D12 tracks, mostly because it didn’t have a stupid video where the fat guy dances with dwarfs. It was always held back, though, by Eminem’s excessively dense production. Embrace keeps the gloom but gives us the space to appreciate and actually care about Eminem and his buddies falling out. Also impressive that he manages to sing the rap; most non-rap covers of hip-hop tracks just sing the chorus.
[6]


The Streets – Fit But You Know It (The Futureheads Remix)
[5.67]


Edward Oculicz: In which The Futureheads proved that they were a great, versatile little pop group; noisy, shouty and vibrant and thrilling, you know, all the things that rock bands are supposed to be, and that Mike Skinner's rhymes sound absolutely awful outside their native environment.
[2]

Mike Atkinson: Blurring the lines between “remix” and “cover version”, The Futureheads smartly chuck out every last shred of Mike Skinner’s weedy, half-baked after-thought of a backing track, even muscling in with their own vocals come chorus time. The result is a wholesale geographical transposition of the track – from Lewisham kebab house to Mackem chip shop – which somehow works a whole lot better, making me actively long for a complete Alternative Northern Version of the second Streets album. (Oh, and I love the bit at the end which sounds like The Members.)
[8]

Doug Robertson: Proving that you can polish a turd, the Futureheads manage the impossible and turn Mike Skinner into something worth listening to. Of course, it’d be better if Mike wasn’t actually on the record, but you can’t have everything.
[6]

Hillary Brown: A surprisingly lovely blend, perhaps in the way salt and watermelon go together or chiles and chocolate. You can’t imagine it turning out nearly as well as it does, but in fact, the odd flavors complement one another and create something new and tastier.
[7]

Ian Mathers: Mike Skinner earns respect merely for letting the Futureheads turn one of his singles into a less interesting Futureheads song. The chorus where they take over and force his lines into new shapes is easily the highlight of this version, but even on the verses the new backing gives the whole thing a little extra oomph. Unfortunately those guitars aren't as interesting as they would be for a Futureheads song, and once the novelty wears off you'd just rather hear the original and/or something like “Decent Days And Nights”.
[6]


Ladytron – Oops (Oh My)
[5.71]


Peter Parrish: See, robots need love too. B-ep boop BEEP BEEP!
[6]

Ian Mathers: This is Ladytron? I can barely believe it, but the way they launch into a tech-scuzz flurry and then immediately the chorus at the beginning is a bit jarring, especially considering Helen Marnie sounds very different here. I was hoping this would be a bit cooler, more restrained, but this is still pretty entertaining, especially once the monotone spoken accompanying voice starts up. Not nearly as sultry as the original, but more exciting (and possibly perverted, depending on what the sheer density of squelching means).
[7]

Doug Robertson: Hooray for Ladytron! By turning Tweet’s laid back and sexy anthem to self love into an angry and aggressive burst of hyperenergy, they also reveal a rarely seen emotional side of themselves; they might seem like robots, but underneath they’re still human. It’s a bit like that scene in Alien 4 where Winona Ryder reveals her true self, only in reverse. And actually good.
[8]

Jonathan Bradley: Tweet’s self-gratification was gentle, pleasurable and in the privacy of her own home. It was sultry, and sexy, a private enjoyment that she shared with the rest of the world through the power of song. For this song, though, Ladytron went to a party, drank too much vodka, snorted too much coke and started stripping on top of a table. It was sleazy, embarrassing and not at all sexy. A lot like this.
[2]

Mike Atkinson: When Tweet sings this song, you sense that she is describing an auto-erotic “scene” that has been played out before, and which has been honed to teasing perfection; there’s something wickedly pre-meditated about all that “accidental” clothes-shedding, as if she’s the star of her own peep show. In Ladytron’s version, there’s no sense of self-control whatsoever; there’s barely any sense that the singer knows what the fuck is going on anymore. This is the sound of someone stumbling back in from the club – alone, totally trashed, all sexed-up and then some – but with no options for satisfactory release left, save for crashing into a sweaty, writhing, gasping, finger-frigging, amyl-nitrate spilling mélange of feverish, glassy-eyed, relentless, remorseless, keep-right-on-to-the-bitter-end self-abasement. Where Tweet invites you to watch, Ladytron dare you to.
[7]


Jamelia - Numb
[6.00]


Hillary Brown: This should sound like heaven in comparison with Will Young’s awfulness, but it doesn’t. So what does that say? Bad things, I suspect.
[1]

Mike Atkinson: In this instance, I am in what many might consider the fortunate situation of never having heard Linkin Park’s original. As a result, I find it almost impossible (beyond a certain degree of dark shading in the melody) to imagine this being sung as nu-metal, and quite inconceivable that these lyrics could ever have been sung by a conventional male rock voice. I mean, what self-respecting rock singer is going to admit to being this pussy-whipped by a Chick, eh fellas? Maybe that alone betrays how little I know about Linkin Park. Anyway, Jamelia plays the weary, wounded victim – right at the end of her tether, major Self Esteem Issues – to heart-rending perfection, her ever-intensifying anguish soaring way above the Lite Lounge Unplugged instrumentation behind her, the contrast between the two making her performance all the more effective.
[8]

Ian Mathers: Wow. This actually sounds as if Jamelia's version could be the original, which goes some way to supporting the contention that Linkin Park are undervalued as pop songwriters. Does it say something about levels of maturity (for better or worse) that I always assumed they were singing about their parents and I assumed here she was singing to a lover? The ending is a bit too showy, but this isn't bad.
[6]

Edward Oculicz: I've really come around to Linkin Park, the way they inject so much drama and pain (of the self-absorbed, adolescent and as such RELATABLE kind) into their songs is actually genius even when it's not listenably so. And Jamelia, well, she actually makes a better fist of overemoting this pain than she did on her pleasant but pointless version of Sam Brown's "Stop", the backing singers are nicely placed, and the whole acoustic soul makeover reveals a song that's melodically a lot stronger than given credit for, and I'd previously written off as a not-particularly-high point of Linkin Park's catalogue.
[8]

Jonathan Bradley: From now on, all Linkin Park tracks should be performed by Jamelia. I propose a government funded initiative in which angst-metal songs are covered by pop stars with acoustic guitar and piano, just in case there are more hidden gems hiding under the sludge and the pouting.
[7]


Teenage Fanclub – He’d Be A Diamond
[6.86]


Peter Parrish: Shockingly, I don’t know who first did this. That’s my credibility gone, then… I bet it’s Elvis or something. Oh god. Try to forgive me. Anyway, this gives me a slightly different perspective--the material is completely fresh. Fresh indeed; with wonderfully snug guitars, some perky tambourines and a soft tale of missed opportunities. Lovely. And not in a horrible simpering way. B-licious (oh hush).
[9]

Mike Atkinson: As good an example as any of the intentions behind one species of B-side cover: to take a strong song by an obscure artist and grant it a wider exposure. Listening to this – a sexual politics “message song” of the old school, with its lilting, gently strummed Byrds/Simon & Garfunkel qualities – my received wisdom concerning the Bevis Frond (leftfield psychedelic outsider, fairly whimsical, strictly cult appeal only) is overturned in an instant. Job done, then.
[6]

Ian Mathers: The way they sing “feel like shit” is wonderful, as is the sentiment of the song; how often do you hear a “please, take my worthless ass back” song that is (a) sweet or (b) somewhat believable in its regret? You kind of wish she'd take him back, and that it's only half because of the vocal harmony speaks very well for the song itself.
[9]

Doug Robertson: It doesn’t really matter what song this is, as everything Teenage Fanclub touch turns into a Teenage Fanclub song. This could be a cover of an Anal Cunt song and it’d still end up sounding all sweet and summery and full of beautiful harmonies that make you want to run down to your local park and lie in the grass and dream for a while, which isn’t exactly a great idea in this current frost ridden climate, but you can hardly blame them for that.
[6]

Hillary Brown: You could almost mistake it for an overlooked late 1960s folk-tinged minor classic, if they could sing a little better. As it is, the vocals put it more in 90s twee, but not without charm.
[6]

Jonathan Bradley: Sounds a lot like Thirteen by Big Star, which is never a bad thing, and it’s a valuable reminder that British indie rock doesn’t have to be awful NME twats that hate dancing. It’s hardly outstanding, but its unassumingness is refreshing after the bluster of so many of the covers this week.
[7]


Sophie Ellis-Bextor – Yes Sir, I Can Boogie
[7.29]


Edward Oculicz: In which songs that refer back on themselves and feature the word "dance" are given to their rightful owner to do her posh, slightly bothered and yet utterly unhurried snooty disco diva strop over them. And she delivers exactly as you'd expect, it's the fact that the backing is a tiny bit stilted that stops this being a ten. Sophie's best songs have her doing her awkward dancefloor deal over crisp, pristine music so you notice just how lost and charming she is, even though she knows just what she's doing every step of the way.
[9]

Mike Atkinson: Sophie’s a sharp cookie, and hearing this makes me realise how much I miss having her around. I love the way that she effortlessly recontexualises the whole essence of the song, turning it right around from the dead-eyed, wilfully gormless, no speaka da lingo mista, port-and-lemon swilling Desperate Slapperhood of the original, and transforming it into a sly, knowing, effortlessly commanding, I-call-the-shots-round-here-Mister signal to arms. In this context, the lines “already told you in the first verse, and in the chorus, but I will give you one more chance” take on a gently chiding, finger-wagging, amusedly world-weary quality which I find utterly charming. Nice filtering on the disco strings and all.
[9]

Hillary Brown: Oy is that beat ever boring. I can appreciate a retro disco jam, but this is snoozy even with the adorableness of the way she sings “boogie.”
[3]

Peter Parrish: I must confess, I’d decided to love this before I’d even heard it. Which is plainly cheating, I know--but imagine the crushing disappointment if it had somehow not lived up to expectation. Obviously there’s just the one trick on offer here, and that trick is Sophie Ellis Bextor’s curious approach to intonation. Not so much a ‘posh’ vocal as just a downright ODD one. But good heavens people, listen to her say “boogie-woogie”! It’s fuelled by the power of ten thousand spontaneously lost virginities. B-guiling.
[8]

Ian Mathers: This is actually the only one of these songs I hadn't heard before; it seems like a throwback, but Ellis-Bextor's voice tends to have that effect on songs. It's a marvelous instrument for pop, but it's so upper-class that when she says “Yes sir” or something similar you could believe it's a reflex action. Of course, you might not focus on that voice as much if she had a good song to work with. Points off for emphasizing the “boogie-woogie” bit, which is basically baby talk.
[5]

Jonathan Bradley: What I love about this is that given Lady Ellis Bextor’s mannered, upper-class accent, it is a real surprise that she actually can boogie. It calls to mind some stuffy old duchess saying, “You want to know if I can dahnce,” and then surprising the entire party by kicking off her heels and getting down like she’s Donna Summer. Besides, it’s got disco strings. Disco strings!
[9]


Belle & Sebastian – I’m A Cuckoo (The Avalanches remix)
[7.40]


Mike Atkinson: Full disclosure. That Avalanches album from a few years ago, which gained universal critical acclaim for its groundbreaking use of sampling technology? I always thought it was massively overrated: such a dense, continuous collage of so many disparate elements – competing as much as harmonising – that every listening left me with a kind of mental indigestion. However, with this one remix-slash-complete-remake for Belle & Sebastian, the Avalanches have justified their entire career. I absolutely adore it – especially the ecstatic South Sudanese choir towards the end. And the curious thing about it is this. Whenever I listen to Belle & Sebastian’s original, I never give a thought to the Avalanches version – and yet, whenever I listen to the Avalanches version, I can never imagine existing in any other form. Thus, despite sharing the exact same vocal line (if nothing else), the two versions co-exist, side by side on the same EP, as fully distinct pieces of work in their own right. Not many remixes manage to do this.
[9]

Doug Robertson: What Belle and Sebastian would sound like if you’re trying to listen to them on headphones while wandering through a street carnival. Unfortunately there’s a steadfast refusal from either side to actually get involved with each other and it ends up sounding like a mess, rather than any exciting sort of sound clash. Oh well.
[4]

Hillary Brown: Y’all know that song in A Bug’s Life that they play at the big celebration banquet and features grass flute kind of things that the bugs have to shimmy up and down to cover and open the holes on? Probably not, but this reminds me a little of that, and it’s sweet. And it has accordion, which is the anti-harmonica as far as reed instruments are concerned (i.e., it’s awesome).
[7]

Peter Parrish: Strange one, this. It’s “I’m A Cuckoo” ... but taking place in some kind of open marketplace, where a ragtag troupe of musicians jingle-jangle and sway amongst noble entrepreneurs promoting their wares. Lofty wind instruments climb over the everyday hustle and bustle of life as tribal chanting swells and falls. Meanwhile, the tune’s still trundling along too. It’s fairly cluttered, but never too confused. B-lightful.
[7]

Ian Mathers: The original was great, but this might be even greater – it's still Stuart Murdoch singing, but now he's in the midst of a village somewhere sunny, and children are singing their own song around him. The Avalanches have taken a great wistful song and, without altering the lyrics or even the vocals, stuffed it full to bursting with joy. They even pretend they're going to emulate the original melody at the beginning, but that's just a cover for something original and wonderful. It doesn't hurt that they shaved a minute off of the running time, either.
[10]


The Delgados – Mr. Blue Sky
[7.86]


Edward Oculicz: In which the essence of a truly fabulous pop song is expertly extracted and reconstituted with a string section and a tight, underrated pop band. Even without the glossy production and myriad instruments, Emma Pollock captures every weary sigh of the original and every aching moment of beauty in the melody. Just gorgeous.
[10]

Ian Mathers: Well, it's still too long, but that bit where everything drops out for the chorus except for Emma Pollock and a lonely string part is absolutely gorgeous. It's not as good as their originals, mainly because it gets bogged down in replicating ELO's instrumental wank near the end, but anyone who would take Jeff Lynne over Pollock needs a smacking.
[8]

Jonathan Bradley: I’ve never heard the ELO original, so I can’t tell whether I should be giving credit to the Delgados or to the Electric Light Orchestra. It sounds a whole lot like the Delgados’s original stuff, so either they’ve picked a cover that suits their brand of melodic, orchestral pop, (in which case I really should start investigating ELO) or they’ve given this a significant makeover. Either way, it’s catchy and covered in that sumptuous Delgados sheen, and comes complete with a baffling rock coda at the end, so it deserves an…
[8]

Mike Atkinson: It’s impossible to form a serious objection to The Delgados’ good-natured romp through the ELO’s so-called “guilty pleasure” classic. Sure, the chop guitar chords during the verses are no substitute for the heavenly staccato strings of the original, which keep the song bouncing along with such airy precision – but we’re not here to burden ourselves with comparisons. Not that this is a slapdash job, either – a fair degree of care has been expended on the arrangement, considering that this was on a single which got no higher in the UK charts than #72. Fair play, if you ask me.
[6]

Hillary Brown: In some ways, this is lesser ELO to me, partially because it’s more restrained than a lot of their crazier, we-will-put-two-entire-orchestras-and-three-rock-bands-in-this-song stuff, so I’m not too picky about a cover, but it seems to be lacking some of the juiciness of the original. Less ripe nectarine compared to ripened peach?
[4]

Peter Parrish: Absolute perfection. Stylus have already demonstrated the glory of ELO; the Delgados manage to take it a step further. Because, you see, this rendition of “Mr. Blue Sky” is like toast. Not normal toast, but some kind of idealised Platonic toast. That slice of toast you have after a sleepy-eyed lie-in on a winter’s morning when you’ve wrapped up against the cold, the heating is blazing and your stomach is demanding satisfaction. Only toast will do. Only toast can provide the kind of comforting glow that signifies everything is right with the world. Hearing this is like having a balmy belly full of crumbs. Forever. B-yond compare.
[10]


By: UK Stylus Staff
Published on: 2005-11-18
Comments (7)
 

 
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