Feb 12, 2008

DO YOU KNEAD ANYBODY? The Better Beatles - Mercy Beat LP, Hook Or Crook

A friend of mine called me weeks back and left the following message: "Hey. I just wanted to call you...because I'm listening to Nick Cave and Lydia Lunch cover 'Some Velvet Morning'...? And it's...awful! It's... [long pause] uhhhhhhhhh!" Click. I figured I oughta find it out before I call back otherwise it'd just be more of that. Only when I heard it, I was at a comparable loss for appropriately-pissed-and-insulted jive. Of all the Top 20 horseysauce to mash your fingers in and call it painting! Why does "Some Velvet Morning" deserve a piss-take? Who wakes up in the morning, wonky and fried from the previous evening, and says, "That Lee Hazlewood is gonna get a piece of my mind today." What a tubesteak. Fuck a Nick Cave and fuck a Lydia Lunch. I hated the cover of "In the Ghetto", too, but I can at least understand which way it was going. It just happened to be stupid.

On the other hand, I've been spinning this Better Beatles LP for weeks now and it never gets tired. In fact, it's lit a little different every time. Some folk finna tell you this is some wry DIY cats from deep in the heart of Nebraska knockin' the Fat Four off their throne as some arty/pissy punk gesture, but I'm here to tell you that's some boiled air. I don't think it's anywhere near that incendiary. The indifference to the legend of these songs ("I'm Down", "Hello Goodbye", "Penny Lane", "Eleanor Rigby") is definitely in there, but the key is the exhaustion. How many times do you gotta hear "Penny Lane" as you're passin Big D one-oh-three good times/grating oldies before the craft and the beauty and all that is finally lost & you're psyched that JL is molting beneath the Earth? Not many. In fact, it probably already happened. So what you end up with is a song drained of whatever significance it had back when it was still wet from birth, wandering the airwaves like a lobotomized hippie trying to remind us of the days when music meant sumpthin. "Maybe," the Better Beatles might've pondered, "what these songs need is to literally sound exhausted and indifferent for once and, in doing so, they'll become new again; like a funny little awakening." Scott Soriano of Static Part/Crud Crud/Z-Gun/S-S Records fame said their take on "Penny Lane" got him to "actually appreciate the old saw and that is tough to do." Hey, what else are great covers for?

Get this on wax or plastic from Hook Or Crook or S-S Records, as I think Soriano's still got a few. And while you're at it, throw out your Nick Cave records. Do it for me. Do it for Lee.

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