Friday, July 23, 2010

Outsider Music Spotlight

"Wrong Way" (Sublime Cover)
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I don't like Sublime and I'm not afraid to say it. They've always struck me as a bit hollow, not genuinely punk or ska or anything like that and with a detestable guns-and-bitches philosophy thrown in for crossover appeal. In fact, I've often found myself the only non-Sublime fan in a group and alienated as a result. The two main things I dislike about Sublime are their hollowness and the fairly annoying white-boy vocals that accompany their form of music all too often. Good thing teenage San Francisco musician Jack Gorlin took care of both these issues in his cover of Sublime's "Wrong Way." The cover is not much different from the original, but Gorlin's gravelly voice seems much more convincing than late Sublime vocalist Bradley Nowell's whine, and the fairly lo-fi recording quality makes the song seem more as if it was truly sung from the perspective of its unlikely-knight protagonist. The distinction between this version and the original is subtle but effective enough to make all the difference.

“Tear It Down”
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What would happen if Jason Mraz was sleepwalking, randomly picked up a guitar, and began singing BJ Snowden? As opposed to the catchy space-pop of his Captain Navy project, Zach Shpizner's first single under his own name sounds like he cut it at four in the morning in a linen closet after a few dozen shots of god knows what. Yet this is what makes it strangely beautiful--the lyrics are nothing special, but the rudimentary recording quality and off-key yelping give it a vibe not unlike that of an ancient outsider record unearthed by a musical historian in the basement of some country house. There is a real sense of mystery and loneliness to this song. While this is only a rough demo, we hope Shpizner keeps up the rambling for the final.

"Shine On"
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Bay Area garage-rockers Seize the Sound have formed a contingent of spinoffs and side-projects to rival the New Pornographers'--a band formed by the rhythm guitarist and the lead guitarist, plus one by the rhythm guitarist and the singer, then solo projects by the lead guitarist and the rhythm guitarist. Now the singer and the lead guitarist have formed an acoustic anti-folk band (DEA, short for Dragon Eats Adam) using one of the most dreaded pop cliches of the 21st century--a tiny little firebomb called the ukulele, favored by whine merchants like Train, Jason Mraz, and Christofer Ingle. But surprise... it's not like that at all. There is literally nothing here except James Uejio's stark plucking and Shane Bannon's whispered lyrics. It sounds like it was cut late at night and quietly enough to avoid waking up the dragon. But the most striking thing about the song is the sense of apocalyptic urgency. Shane sings of looking up at the sky and points out how it will be the only thing remaining when the world ends (and who knows if it'll stay blue). With all the panic concerning global warming and the Gulf oil spill, it's a song for our times--yet it still seems timeless.

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