Sunday, November 30, 2008

Doder Made Me Do It!

I take ALOT of crap for where I live and what I choose to do. I hear from friends in far off lands(like California, because they are so normal) why an intelligent person would choose to live here and waste their time. But people have to understand that there is no place like the South Eastern USA. There is a strange duality here that I have never found in any other place in all my travels. A mix of the righteous and the damned, usually in the same people, that can only lead to interesting times. From the mountains of Tennessee to the Mississippi delta, to the swamps of Louisana, there just isn't anyplace like it.
There is a reason that art from this part of the country endures. I doubt the art of Eudora Welty, William Faulkner, Tennessee Williams, Hank Williams, Robert Johnson, Elvis Presley, or Johnny Cash would have had a lasting or wide reaching effect if not for the conflicted lands that they called home (aka The South). While we may not be the richest, most educated or "best" part of the country. I have encountered more racism in Montana, more ignorance in NYC, and worse weather in the mountains of Colorado. But last, and most important, this is Home.

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Monday, November 17, 2008

Covered Up #1

"Many do's and don'ts. First of all you're using someone else's poetry to express how you feel. This is a delicate thing. " - Rob Gordon, High Fidelity by Nick Hornsby

Years and years ago, and I have forgotten how we ended up talking about this subject, my main most man, Chris Reid told me about a pop group called A Teens, who did note for note recreations of ABBA songs. This lead me to think, if they do note for note recreation of ABBA songs, why wouldn't you just go listen to ABBA. Down through the years I have heard alot of cover songs. Some good, some bad. And I have developed a theory on cover songs.

If you are going to cover someone else music, you need to make it your own. A good example of this is Johnny Cash's cover of Nine Inch Nails song "Hurt". Trent Rezner even said in a Rolling Stone interview, "It was a big juxtaposition for me to hear it as someone else's song now. It instantly became his song after that." And that is the point of doing a cover, to take something you like, but make it new, different, or better.

There are alot of songs that I could have choosen to do for this first article. But I want to keep it simple and to choose a song that everyone knows. That is why, I have chosen to look at Smells Like Teen Spirit by Nirvana. Alot of people have done versions of this song, from Tori Amos to Dokaka to Atari Teenage Riot to Flyleaf to the artist list in this article.

Smells Like Teen Spirit by Nirvana
Of course you have to start with the original. This song, pretty much moved the alternative music scene in America into the mainstream in 1992. It is usually listed as the most important song of the 1990s and as one of the greatest songs in rock history. Plus it was the perfect song, for 15 year old boys like me at the time. I find it strange to see kids, no older than 15, wearing Nirvana t-shirts. A testament to powerful and far reaching nature of this song and Nirvana as a whole.

Smells Like Teen Spirit by The Melvins
From their cover album Crybaby. This, musically speaking, this is probably the cover that most closely resembles the original and is the least interesting. Buzz was a good friend of Kurt Cobain and probably had some hand in helping the formation of the song. Given the usually style of The Melvins, I can only speculate that Buzz did not want to mess with his friends legacy to much. What does makes this cover intersting is the inclusion of 70s pop idol, Leif Garrett on lead vocals.

Smells Like Teen Spirit by Paul Anka
You read that right, Paul Anka covering Nirvana. The strangest of the covers. Anka turns this anthem of apathetic kids into a swinging big band song that would have felt at home in the early 1950s. By my defination, Anka has done what I wanted, he took something, someone else made, and turned it into his own song. I will not lie, I did not care for this version when I first heard it. But repeated listening (and the fact that I do like big band swing) have lead me to see the humor and fun in this version.

Smells Like Teen Spirit by Patti Smith
Saying Patti Smith is a genius, is like saying water is wet, or the sky is blue. Its just something everyone should know. This is be far my favorite cover version of the song. Smith keeps the bass line but takes out the signature grunge guitar riff. Replacing it with with banjos and violins, that mix together with the songs lyrics and her own poetry to form a lullaby that constantly feels like it is going to explode. She released this song this year on her new cover album, Twelve.

Smells Like Nirvana by "Weird Al" Yankovic
While technical not a cover of Smells Like Teen Spirit, this song has two factors that make its inclusion importnat. The first, is the parody is about the Nirvana phenomenon itself and the difficult of understanding Cobain's singing and the meaning of the lyric. The other factor is that Cobain had stated that he realized Nirvana had "made it" when he was told "Werid Al" want to do a parody of his song. Plus it has rockin section on the kazoo.

The importance of this song on those of us who grew up in the 90s can't be fully explained. No matter is you love the song, hate it, or are apathic to it, everyone must acknowledge it huge cultural impact. I am sure that there are all types of covers of this song I have missed. But I felt that these where the ones that gave a good cross section of the musical spectrum. My only complaint is I couldn't find a country/bluegrass version to include.

Next Time: Shake Your Hips!


Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Dawn of a New Day in America

Want to hear three great words? President Elect Obama.

Sounds pretty nice doesn't it. I like it. I have to say I am surprise a little by the election. I voted for Obama, but I really thought the election would be a tighter race. It gives testament to our new commander and chief. Last night NPR was talking about how Obama electrified the electorate. That African Americans, Latinos, and the young all came out to vote for Obama in record numbers. I can see that. Back in the 1990s, some one said about Bill Clinton, "The things that get you elected are also the things that get you laid." While crude, I think this statement has some truth. Obama is cool and that appeals to people. Some say blacks voted for Obama just because he is black, not because they agreed with his politics. But that is okay, because if African Americans voted for him because they saw themselves in Obama, then that is not a wasted vote. But there is more to it than that. The man has brougth something to America that I don't think anyone else has in a long time


Through a long strange series of events I ended up in New Orleans, LA. on Tuesday night. While not planned at all, I can't now think of a better place to have watched the returns. We, Becca and myself, watched in a small bar in downtown NOLA. You must remember New Orleans was deeply screwed over by the Bush administration and by extension the Republican Party. Still NOLA is deep in the GOP south, so it was no surprise the Louisana went Republican.
But even there, where they are still trying to recover, you found a sense of hope and new beginnings. I watched a man run down Canal Street carrying an American Flag, yelling "God Bless America!"

I wish my grandparents where still around, so I could ask them if this feeling for renewal was what it was like when FDR was elected. I want to talk to my parents and see if these new spirit was there when JFK was elected, or when MLK was leading the civil rights movement. Because last night, in my mind, Obama joined those leaders(hopefully his term will end better than JFK or MLK). Obama seems to be a uniter, his multiculturalism has help bridge gaps that the Bush administration have caused with our allies in Europe. Today in Kenya was national holiday, because Obama's father was from Kenya. That is pretty influential. The real question now become how with his popularity effect the Middle East conflicts?

To this we should remember John McCain. I don't have any bad feelings for John McCain. I hope Obama keeps his word about working with the opposition. I even hope that President Obama would make McCain Secretary of State. Because right now we don't need to lose anyone.
I would like to see McCains continued involvement as not just an outreach to Republicans but to use all the experienc of McCain and Biden to help our new President.

McCain had few problems in this election. First he always seemed to come off as mad. If the McCain who showed up on Saturday Night Live a few days ago, had been running the whole time I think he would have stood a better chance. The second ,and most serious to me, was he moderated his position so much to fit in with the party line and Bush administration, that he lost what really made him a maverick. I never heard anything about national service or vetereans rights. Lastly, Palin. If you are not a extreme right wing fundamentalist, Palin scaried the shit out of you. I know she was brought in to help bring that extreme right wing side into help McCain, but she scaried off any moderates and independants McCain may have had.

Still for all our good feeling and high hopes, the
real work is about to begin. We are stuck in an economic crisis that isn't going to be solved over night, in six months, a years or two. We are stuck in two wars, with potentally new ones on the horizen. The test of this president isn't going to be the election but how he solves the problems that we face as a nation. We have faith in you sir, but we are watching.