Friday, September 14, 2012

Music review: Just Tell Me That You Want Me

I’m going to step out of my comfort zone a little bit and review an album I bought off of the other day. I don’t normally review music because that’s not where my “expertise” lies. I make horror films. But, in this case I’m going to make an exception because the album in question is Just Tell Me That You Want Me, a collection of Fleetwood Mac cover tunes by some of Today’s Biggest New Stars! and a couple of Yesterday’s Biggest Shining Beacons!

I’m a HUGE fan of Nicks-era Fleetwood Mac because I’m a HUGE fan of Stevie Nicks and I have been since I was eight years old. Now, I normally HATE covers, really of any group, but especially of Fleetwood Mac. It’s the same problem I have with most film remakes: it’s very rare that a band doing a cover can capture the emotion of the original song and what comes out is usually a trite, paint-by-numbers affair offering up so little innovation as to be a carbon copy of what came before or so much innovation that the song is completely lost.

Overall, the album is meh, but the handful of songs that I feel got it right are nearly worth the price of the entire album.

WARNING: foul language ahead.

“Albatross” covered by the Lee Ranaldo Band (featuring J Mascis). It’s not too far removed from the original instrumental piece from the Peter Green era. They’ve added a few filters to make it sound more indie, I guess. Passible.

“Landslide” covered by Anthony. I know people have this same problem with Stevie Nicks, but I find this guy’s vibrato to be very distracting. It’s like he doesn’t have control over his voice. Stevie has tight control over her voice and has maintained that control through the drugs, drinking, and smoking (I said I was a fan, that doesn’t mean I’m not realistic.) There’s no power behind this guy’s voice in this song so it comes off whiny.

“Before the Beginning” covered by Trixie Whitley. I’m familiar with quite a few of the pre-Nicks era songs, but not enough to be considered a fan. I sought out the original version of this song after hearing the cover, but I have to say that this version is AMAZING. I love love love this song.

“Oh Well” covered by Billy Gibbons and Company. “Oh Well” is one of my favourite songs. I usually prefer the faster, more intense Lindsay Buckingham version, but this version, by ZZ Top’s Billy Gibbons, has taken Buckingham’s version and shown it how its done. This song is so damn’s gritty and sexy and surprisingly controlled in its chaos. Love it!!

“Rhiannon” covered by Best Coast. What the fuck? Who the fuck thought this was a good fucking idea? GAH!! FUCK THESE PEOPLE IN THEIR EARS! This version makes me want to smash things. It’s like the Chopsticks rendition of Rhiannon. I probably can’t hate a cover song more than I hate this one. I can’t even listen to the whole thing. HATE HATE HATE.

“Think About Me” covered by The New Pornographers. Passible. I don’t think I’d search it out, but it’s got a fairly groovy surf vibe to it.

“Angel” covered by Marianne Faithfull. This is easily the most disappointing track in the collection. I expected far better from Marianne Faithfull. Angel is one of my top favourite Stevie Nicks songs, but this arrangement strips all of the dynamism and power out of it. Marianne Faithfull’s voice is just not up to this song. To be fair, Stevie Nicks’ voice may not be up to this song now, either, but it deserves better treatment. (1:55 and from around 7:03 to the end in this video (Click "this video" to be taken to the YouTube. :D)

“Silver Springs” covered by Lykke Li. More filters. What are these indie bands hiding behind all that crap? Oh, right. That they’re really not that good.

“Dreams” covered by The Kills. The garage-as-recording-studio sound does nothing to enhance the lack of enthusiasm shown in this song. It the chorus, but it’s not impressive in the least.

“Gold Dust Woman” covered by Karen Elson. More thick reverb filters on another passible cover, but, it’s yet another paint-by-numbers piece.

“Storms” covered by Matt Sweeney and Bonnie “Prince” Billy. Another favourite Stevie Nicks song turned into a pretty good cover. Not outstanding, not horrifying (I’m looking at you, Rhiannon.)

“Straight Back” covered by Washed Out. It’s got a slight Spanish feel to it and a lot of layers, but there so many filters on the “singers” that you can’t really understand the lyrics unless you already know them. Overall, however, I really like this cover. The original is very intense and the intensity here is approached from a different angle and with a lot of respect.

“That’s All for Everyone” covered by Tame Impala. 70s sci-fi version of one of Lindsay Buckingham’s better songs. Meh.

“Sisters of the Moon” covered by Craig Wedren and St. Vincent. This is another deep cut of Stevie Nicks’ that I adore and this cover came thisclose to blowing my mind. There are only three missteps in this song: the singer is singing through his nose for the majority of the first verse and chorus wherein he also sounds like he doesn't know the lyrics ("the black widow spider makes more sound than she // and the black pools in those eyes of hers make more sense to me.") And, finally, when the chick singer comes in, she really should've belted out “Does anyone know her name?” That’s the thrust of the song. Stevie’s asking if anyone knows her name, her real should be heartrending. Instead, the chick who sings it in this cover is just like “Whatever...” and can’t even be arsed to sing over the drums (the drums should not be lowered in this song...) Even Lindsay belted it out in this amazing live version from the Mirage tour.
(edited to add: Turns out my talent for mishearing lyrics has struck again. I've always thought Stevie was singing "black pools", but it IS "black moons".

“Dreams” covered by The Kills. Not a cover I would seek out in the future. Forced power, but true earnestness.

“Gypsy” covered by Gardens and Villa. Boring and trite cover of an incredible song.

“Tusk” covered by The Crystal Ark. This cover doesn’t make me as angry as Rhiannon, but come can you take such a dynamic song and make it so incredibly boring? Where’s the power? Where’s the emotion? Instead it’s all electronic beeps and boops and some drummers who are bored even before their section starts.

“Hold Me” covered by Haïm. An okay cover, more paint-by-numbers, but there’s a section I really like, I think it’s the rhythm guitar that’s playing under the solo and then the picking part that comes before the series of choruses that finish out the song (for those who have this album and are keeping score, anyway.)

“Green Manalishi” covered by The Entrance Band. An original Mac song that I’m kind of familiar with and a remake that’s just sort of meh.

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