Posts Tagged ‘The Strokes’

27th November 2021

James Wells

What what what? Could The Kecks, who we’ve been raving about all year, be about to undo all their good work with not only – gasp – a Christmas single, but a cover, and a cover of a shmaltzy Elvis tune at that? When it landed it my inbox, I covered my eyes and pretended it wasn’t there. Poking myself to play it, I was so, so tempted to cover my ears while contemplating the challenge of the extent to which one can permit a transgression from a band you rate, and what constitutes sufficient mitigating circumstances.

It being Christmas is absolutely not adequate defence. In fact, it’s the opposite.

To be clear: I don’t hate Christmas. I just hate the faux-fun, the forced festivities, the fact that everyone feels the need to go crazy social, to overspend and overindulge, the fact that a Christian festival has essentially hijacked solstice celebrations and subsequently been repurposed as a shameful capitalist cash-in.

The foursome have been sitting on this a while: it was recorded back in 2019 and remastered last year, and I’d like to think they’ve been sitting on it until it felt that the time was right and they’d built enough of a name for themselves before putting this out, which I suppose is commendable and makes career sense, but it’s still a Christmas single at the end of the day.

Credit where it’s due, the band dubbed ‘The Strokes of Hamburg’ by Consequence Of Sound have delivered a version that’s less soft-focus and smooshy than either the original or Mud’s famous and faithful cover, injecting it with some vocal passion that gives it a lift and a bit of bite – enough to bring home the grim reality that is Christmas alone , no doubt something that will hit many this year, be it by breakup, bereavement, quarantine or lockdown. Lonely and cold, and unusually dark.


The Kecks artwork

Fierce Panda Records – 24th February 2021

Here we are: it’s the end of February 2021, and COVID-19 isn’t still a thing, but just a few weeks short of a year after the first lockdown was announced here in the UK, it’s pretty much the only thing, and it dominates and dictates our lives in ways we could never have predicted back then – or, arguably, even in September, or at Christmas.

In a time when the music industry isn’t as much in crisis as halfway on its knees and wondering what the actual fuck to do while touring remains off-limits both home and away on account of the pandemic and Brexit meaning the future of the foundations of musicians’ livelihoods is in question, while at the same time the debate over the equity of streaming services for artists has stepped up several notches, the need for an indie label like Fierce Panda seems even more vital. They’ve never gone with the grain and have continued to carve their own niche, focusing on single and EP releases.

The Covid Version Sessions EP is a classic case in point: bringing together a selection of artists you probably haven’t heard of alongside a selection you really ought to have even if you haven’t, it showcases six standalone cover (Covid) version (boom boom) releases, recorded during the pandemic by acts striving to find ways of working together while apart or otherwise unable to operate as normal.

It’s an eclectic mix, with some interesting takes on some well-selected tunes. While we’ve already given praise to National Service’s stripped back, haunting take on The Twilight Sad’s ‘Last January’ (released this January), it’s Moon Panda’s slick, sultry jazz-tinged cover of ‘Call it Fate Call it Karma’ by The Strokes that raises the curtain on the EP. It captures the essence of the original, but somehow manages to sound more authentic, perhaps because of the lack of self-consciously ‘retro’ production.

I’ve long had a soft spot for Pulp’s This is Hardcore album, not least of all because of the admiration inspired by their apparent commercial suicide in following one of the biggest albums of the Britpop era with such a desperately dark pop record. But also, because it has so much more depth and resonance. Desperate Journalist have an ear for drama, so their covering ‘The Fear’ is pretty much faultless: again, it’s a straight rendition, but magnificently executed. The same is true of Jekyll’s rendition of Japan’s ‘Nightporter’, which captures the understated, brooding theatrics of the original.

After Johnny Cash, is there any point on covering ‘Hurt’ by Nine Inch Nails’? Ghost Suns arguably step back closer to the original with electronic instrumentation, and in fact swing more to the other side, landing in ambient / synthwave territory. It’s not as good as Cash, and nor is it a good as the original, but then, it was a hugely ambitious undertaking and yes, it stull brings a lump to the throat – because it seems no matter what spin you put on this song, it is a classic that can’t be contained or twisted to be anything other than a blow directly against the heart.

The Covid Version Sessions may not offer much cheer: in fact they’re draped with sadness and remind us of all we don’t have – but they also remind us that we’re not alone in being alone, that it’s ok not to be ok, and that sometimes, the solution is to just take some time out, listen to some haunting melodies and remember that tomorrow is another day, and that for better or worse, nothing is forever.