Amanda Palmer: Amanda Palmer Performs the Popular Hits of Radiohead 0n Her Magical Ukulele

RIYL: The Dresden Dolls, Radiohead, Hawaiian music

A lot of bands have cribbed the “pay what you want” album release method from Radiohead since the release of In Rainbows. But Amanda Palmer has to be the first to do it with a Radiohead covers album.

Amanda Palmer Performs the Popular Hits of Radiohead on Her Magical Ukulele is just that, Amanda Palmer performing six of Radiohead’s most well-known songs on her ukulele, with the occasional piano and string accompaniment. Oddly enough, the songs of Radiohead lend themselves well to to these sparse renditions. On the openers “Fake Plastic Trees” and “High and Dry,” Palmer’s powerful voice add punch to the bleak lyrics, even when they’re accompanied by the naturally upbeat sound of ukulele plucking. Other times she doesn’t really have to do much the source material; nothing could make “No Surprises” bleaker, and the piano and ukulele arrangement here is nearly identical to the original. And “Exit Music (For a Film)” is straight cover of the original with piano and strings (not one of which sounds like a ukulele). “Idioteque” also captures the feel of the original well, with the manic breakbeats of the original transformed into lightning-fast finger-picking. The only time this goofy concept actually sounds goofy is during both versions of “Creep,” which just sound like novelty cover tracks.

If you like Amanda Palmer, or Radiohead, and want to see what a mad woman with a ukulele is capable of, then there are definitely worse ways to spend 84 cents (the minimal cost for buying the record). (AFP 2010)

Amanda Palmer website


Dwight Twilley: Out of the Box

RIYL: Richard X Heyman, Jason Falkner, The Smithereens

For some artists, an album consisting solely of cover songs would seem a fallback tactic intended to simply buy time. However, coming from Dwight Twilley, the concept finds an appropriate fit with his power pop M.O., reflecting the music that provided his earliest inspiration. And while the majority of his cover choices on this new LP might negate the need for a redo, Twilley manages to impose his indelible imprint on each, making them a good fit with his own catalogue in the process.

Truth be told, Out of the Box doesn’t opt for the obscure. In fact, most of the material is – to say the least – pretty well worn. Songs like “Secret Agent Man,” “Good Golly Miss Molly,” “Stand by Me” and a well-stocked selection of Beatles standards clearly veer towards the obvious. Even the color photo – a psychedelic headshot – offers a retro reference by replicating Richard Avedon’s famous kaleidoscopic portrait of John Lennon.

Happily then, the treatments are anything but ordinary. Aside from the fact that he opts to strip down the arrangements to a basic rock ‘n’ roll motif, Twilley applies his vocals with an angst and intensity that gives these tracks an amped up sense of urgency and desperation. The Bee Gees’ “Holiday” finds a distinct sense of desperation while John Lennon’s “In My Life” echoes with decided remorse. Even the droning “Tomorrow Never Knows” finds an added element of edge and desire.

Inevitably, there will be those who lament the fact that Twilley hasn’t anything original to offer. Indeed, given the recent abundance of rarity collections and other material from his archives, an album of new material would seem long overdue. Suffice it to say, Out of the Box only adds to the anticipation. (Gigatone 2009)

Dwight Twilley MySpace page


Reel Big Fish: Fame, Fortune and Fornication

Covers are nothing new to Reel Big Fish. They gave A-ha’s “Take on Me” the full blown ska treatment, offered a doo wop version of “New York, New York” and reggaed Tracy Chapman’s “Talkin’ ’bout a Revolution” on past releases. In 2007, they joined with Zolof the Rock & Roll Destroyer in splitting an EP of covers and offering co-lead vocals on each other’s tracks on the tremendous Duet All Night Long. Fame does make you smile because Aaron Barrett and his merry band of nuts are as funny as they are talented, but if falls short of Duet because too much of it is simply ska versions of very familiar material. They do sound like they are having fun (as they always do), but these versions lack the fire and enthusiasm that the Duet record captures. Highlights of this quick-hitting 30-minute record, which features covers of Poison (two, actually), Van Morrison, John Mellencamp, and Tom Petty, include a reggae-soaked take on the Eagles’ “The Long Run” and the minimalist duet between Barrett and Tatiana DeMaria (from the Rock/Punk outfit Tat) on Poison’s “Talk Dirty to Me,” which is comprised of a rhythm guitar track, handclaps and an excellent and understated vocal performance. Fame has its moments and is more like an after dinner mint then a meal. (Rock Ridge Music)

Reel Big Fish MySpace page


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