Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Song for a Crappy Tuesday: February Covers Edition

When you take your yearly trip to visit the four sisters of February Tuesdays, take a jacket. They don't like to turn on the heat or close the windows unless it's a special occasion. But they won't ever tell you what makes a special occasion, so it's rather a crap shoot.

You grumble to yourself as you pull up to their house. The "low fuel" light has been on for a few miles, and you hoped in secret that your hatchback would run out of gas before you got there. No such luck.

Great. Now you run the risk of getting stuck in their driveway. They don't own a telephone and there is not a gas station for miles.

Approaching the door, you notice the faded Christmas wreath still dangling from one steadfast twig. It still smells of pine, but when you reach in to the hole to bang the knocker, the remaining needles cascade to the front porch. The knocker lands with a "kank" on the door.

It is the youngest Tuesday sister who greets you. She shrieks, thrilled that you have come and you really didn't have to come all this way, but we're so glad to see you, and do you have a girl/boyfriend, and you look like you gained/lost weight, and we were so thrilled/troubled to learn that you found/lost a job, what flavor jello would you like?

By this point you are in the parlor, where the other three sisters are sitting. Situated about the room are plates of jello molds in a variety of colors. Oddly shaped forms are suspended in the mounds of primary colors...they might be meat.

You take a seat, and ask for the green jello, please.

I love covers.

I am a sucker for reinterpretations of popular songs, particularly when a musician puts their own stamp on it. If it just sounds exactly like the original then why bother? (Sort of like that shot for shot remake Gus Van Sant did of Psycho. It was an interesting experiment, but, I believe, a failed one.) When a song is turned around on its head through the visor of another artist, the cover can highlight moments of rage, vulnerability, or humor that may not have been present in the original.

So, this month is dedicated to The Cover.

I am a distant fan of Metallica. Never have I purchased so much as a single from them, but I still count "Enter Sandman" off of their "Black Album" as one of my favorites.

The build at the beginning gives me chills: it starts out with a lilting guitar, offering a sort of map as to where the melody is headed , but instantly the drums take over and the guitar goes from lilting to distorted, raising tension as the progression from before becomes halting - starting over and over, never resolving itself fully. Then, like a train out of nowhere, it roars forward.

Enter Sandman also takes plays off of our fears of sleep, contrasting the violent thumping of the music with lyrics like "Off to never never land" and the prayer "Now I lay me down to sleep" in the middle. Take it from me, sleep is fraught with all kinds of torments. Enter Sandman expresses this with preternatural insight.

And now, it's twin: Enter Sandman, by Apocalyptica.

I first heard this version during the opening credits of Neil LaBute's seething horrorshow, Your Friends & Neighbors. Part of the brilliance of this cover, is the removal of all the electric guitars and still achieving an intense level of distortion on an instrument usually associated with nerdy white girls. These guys practically rip the cello open. (Never mind the excellent use of it in Your Friends & Neighbors - take a thrashing hard rock release, combine it with the cello and in one fell swoop, we see that even when confined to something more "polite", our rage still exists and it will pop a string if we're not careful.)

Score 25 for band nerds everywhere. These guys rock.

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