2. Contaminated *ahem*, I mean Contamination arrived in the mail today – only about four months late. Despite the misappropriated title, the CD is actually worth the money. And not just because David J is covering Time and the Dresden Dolls are covering Life On Mars – some of the covers are quite original. If some of these bands persist and continue to find their style they could be quite good. However, some fail to leave any impression on me at all. When I hear a cover of any artists’ song, I like to hear the covering artists totally own the song as Bowie did with Pablo Picasso and as Bauhaus did with Ziggy Stardust. I listened to each of these songs carefully (some 3 times in a row, figure out which one that was) and tried to judge them on their value as a cover and not necessarily whether or not I like the type of music the artist plays.
I’m going to start with one song that was my only reason for buying the CD – Time as covered by David J and Cabaret Oscuro. Cabaret Oscuro do a marvelous job with this cover, it is very haunting and very original. The song starts out in a low-fi, smoky manner with just David singing and Mr. Uncertain‘s forceful piano. The sublime Joyce Rooks then fills out the sound with her cello adaptation of Trevor Bolder’s bass part. Her playing adds a dark, classy feeling to the song. A few bars later, Tom Vos takes Ronson’s lead guitar part with his violin and viola. He somewhat sticks to the original melody but does quite a bit of his own interpretation. One of the most striking parts of the song is when Vos cuts right to the bone with his solo after “you are not evicting time.” And that brings me back around to David. His vocals are classic David J. While they are very different than Bowie’s he pays a great tribute to the original and keeps the song within the cabaret theme. One can almost imagine him in his Cab O drag, holding the microphone lounge-singer fashion on one hand, and languidly holding a cigarette in the other. However, I think one of the nicest touches of the song comes at the very end when a watch timer goes off. Time is up.
And on a side note, if anyone wishes to see a live performance of Time by David J and Cabaret Oscuro visit David’s official site. The video has the added bonuses of another member of the group playing the saw and a little cellolingus.
And now, on to the rest of the songs in their proper order.
Lying Delilah’s cover of Within You is quite unique. She does a dark, dreamy trip-hop version of the song with very simple spoken lyrics. This song is one worth hearing. I am considering checking out some more of her work.
The Dresden Dolls’ version of Life On Mars is breathtaking. Amanda’s gorgeous vocals and pounding piano paired with Brian’s understated drumming make for a cover that emphasizes Bowie’s warped subject matter.
The Brides’ cover of John I’m Only Dancing is a fun song. It sticks fairly close to the original with the exception of the keyboards and the poppy, funky bass. Just as danceable as Bowie’s original and a hell of a lot better than Bowie’s own redux of it.
The cover of Rock ‘n’ Roll Suicide by Revue Noir is one that I don’t feel one way or the other about. Nicki Jaine’s vocals are interesting, but the song goes on with just her vocals and guitar for far too long. It gets better when the rest of the members chime in and becomes a mildly interesting cover.
Fashion Bomb’s deathrock cover of I’m Afraid Of Americans is just not my bag. For the genre it is, I suppose their cover is fairly good but I probably won’t listen to it after I complete this sentence.
The Metrosexuals‘ interpretation of Andy Warhol is a good one. They throw in some dark bass, a slide guitar, samples of Bowie’s original, and a ton of cymbal crashing. It makes for a very fun cover. When I looked at the picture of the band, I expected the song to sound much different, more like the Killers perhaps. However, upon reading their liner notes I realized that is exactly the impression they intend to give. Another band I’ll be checking out.
The next cover is one I like a lot. Mr Russia does Boys Keep Swinging with only a bass and a drum set. I always figured a dub version of this song was too much to ask, but apparently my crazy thoughts do sometimes materialize. I’m impressed that Mr Russia plays the lead guitar part on a bass. I wonder if it’s fretless…..
Kaligare‘s version of Look Back In Anger sticks very closely to the original. The bass is a bit darker and the guitar a bit more distorted, but otherwise very close to the original. That said, I like the original a lot and so I like this one as well. Another band that I am interested in hearing more of.
Sherriff Scabs starts out with a good cover of Saviour Machine. He has some cool fingerpicked and distorted guitar backed by a groovy drumbeat. You can dance to it for about the first minute and fourteen seconds. Then it plummets into Marilyn Manson territory. It comes back to cool again, and you think maybe he booted Manson out of the studio, but no, the Sherriff is just teasing you. Lather, rinse, repeat until the end of the song. It could have been a bad-ass cover if not for the segments of channeling Manson. Ah well.
Emulsion‘s interpretation of Warszawa is beautiful. He presents it using only a few voices on his synth – a very early, almost moog sounding voice over a generated drum beat followed by a vocal voice. He states in his liner notes that he aimed to do a much simpler and lo-fi version of the song. The result is a compelling and minimalistic tribute.
Hearts Fail does a much better cover of Man Who Sold The World than Nirvana did. As far as the instruments go, there is a lot more to the song than either Nirvana’s cover or the original. The song is very interesting in that Edward Wagner’s vocals are very new wave and the rest of the band is more classic rock. This band seems to be following the emerging trend of neo-New Wave bands yet they maintain their own sound.
The Danger‘s cover of Hang On To Yourself is good, but sounds almost exactly like the original. In fact, the guitar sounds so much like Ronson’s that if I didn’t know better I would think they were sampling it. That’s not to say I don’t like the song, because I do, and it’s still worth a listen.
Despite the nu-metal guitars, I like High Blue Star‘s version of Fashion. They took the song and made it their own. The underlying beat is very trippy and trancey; add on Laurie Reade’s techno-Celtic vocals and it’s a damn catchy song. Brian Green could stand to lose the overpowering guitar, but I can’t complain too much. The two of them own this one.
I’m pleased to see that one of the artists on this album chose to cover a Tin Machine song. It’s so rare to see that. Lyon Smith does a great job with You Belong In Rock ‘n’ Roll and even goes so far as to use Oblique Strategy during his recording process! Well knock me over with a feather. This guy just moved to the top of my list of new artists to check out.
Egostatic’s cover of Fame is not bad – I like that they chose to go for the late 1990s version of Fame. The best features of the song are the dub bass (if the bass player does not count David J among his influences I will eat my stiletto shoe), and the Duane Allman-esque guitar in the middle. Nice nice touches. The song could be improved a bit if they lost some of the power chords in the middle, but overall not a bad cover.
Haitian Hate Gods’ do the second deathrock cover of the compilation. They covered Little Wonder. See above comments for Fashion Bomb and apply here.
Tides Of Mars does a fairly good cover of Scary Monsters (And Super Creeps). Like a few others he chooses to stay fairly close to the original, but he throws in some heavy power chords. If he lost the power chords the song would be better. Interestingly, he chooses to darken the vocals which makes the song more menacing and adds another layer of meaning to the words “scary monsters.”
Voltaire‘s version of China Girl makes me smile. He states in the liner notes that he and his band played their instruments using a five-tone Chinese scale to give the song a more Asian feel. I love how he really plays up the crooner aspects of the song. Add him to my list of artists to follow up on.
Meg Lee Chin pays tribute with her version of Heroes quite nicely. Her vocals are powerful, just as in the original, and she plays up the drum and bass of the original. The distorted, spoken vocals she sprinkles around the song are also a nice touch. I wonder what the rest of her work sounds like.
I reviewed David J’s cover of Time at the beginning of this post. Love it. Moving on to the next song….
Flutter takes As The World Falls Down and turns it into a dreamy synth-pop song. Christine’s vocals are very light and allow the electronic beat to dance under them. She keeps a beautiful song beautiful.
Jupiter Blue’s interpretation of Space Oddity is too whiny, I mean emo for my tastes. The lead singer sounds like he wants to be Brian Molko singing this song but falls halfway short of the mark. Again, see comments for Fashion Bomb, substitute ’emo’ for ‘deathrock’, and apply as directed.
Press‘ redux of Sound And Vision is most trippy. Listening to this song I want to get my poi chains, switch out the fire wicks for the LED lighted balls, and go to town, rave-style. Interestingly, he writes in the liner notes that in his mind Low began to meld with recent Eno and German techno music that he was listening to during a Bowie-free period. When he came back to listen to Low he found that Sound And Vision sounded much different than he imagined it and recreated his imagined version.
Count Zero took Golden Years, slowed it down, and funked up the bottom of the sound. In the liner notes they say that Golden Years was “disco before disco got stupid”. My ears agree and go one step further to say that it sounds like they arrived at this song by way of George Clinton and Parliament.
Sibyl Vane’s cover of I’m Deranged is interesting. Admittedly, this is one of my favorite songs by Bowie so it’s hard to be objective. In the liner notes they say that they took great pains to make this song their own, and it clearly shows. They also seem to be of the same opinion that I am regarding 1. Outside – that it is hugely underestimated. I haven’t decided whether or not I like this song since it is so unique. However, I’m going to give it some time to grow on me and reserve my judgement for later.
I can however pass judgement on Ahab Rex’s cover of another one of my favorite Bowie songs – Heart’s Filthy Lesson. I hate to say it, but this cover is rather boring. It lacks the frantic, dark quality of the original. In attempt to sexily whisper about a lost love (according to his comments in the liner notes), Ahab Rex comes off as simply sounding bored.
Terminal Bliss took Rebel Rebel and turned it into a bland song. The original epitomizes Bowie’s transitional period from Aladdin Sane to the Thin White Duke and even nears anthemistic. I know it’s not fair to compare any cover to the original, but it sounds like they didn’t make much of an effort.
Abbeyvain’s cover of Quicksand misses the mark. Sydney’s vocals are okay, not remarkable just okay. The rest of the band however is not my style of music. If you like this type of emo-metal cross, then you might like this song. However, I couldn’t even finish listening to it.
Museum’s cover of Ashes To Ashes has way too much going on in it. The beauty of the original is that it was stark and minimal, mirroring the mental state of Major Tom. But this version, wow, it’s a sonic assault. Again, I know it’s not fair to compare the cover to the original, but damn.
I’m not sure exactly what to say about Milk Of Korova’s version of Be My Wife. I can see this song being covered in several ways, but a drum and bass version with fuzzed out guitars and vocals is not one of them.
Amorette sounds a lot like Veruca Salt, so as a result their cover of Oh You Pretty Things sounds a lot like Veruca Salt. I happen to enjoy Veruca Salt, so it’s all good. The electronic touches they add are interesting without being overkill. I wonder if the rest of their work sounds like this or if it’s just this track. Have to check them out.
I really wanted Schlechtes Mord-Bumsen’s cover of Cracked Actor to be good, seeing as how the title of this site is Cracked Actor and the song is close to my heart. I tell you, I really really wanted this to be a good cover. And it’s not. It’s another deathrock cover and it channels Marilyn Manson. What is up? Is it some sort of trend for these type of bands to cover Bowie? I’ve seen more of this type of band than any other one type.
The last track of the album is a bonus track exclusive to the live edition and is a live cover of Five Years by an artist that is not credited. At the risk of being too catty, the song would be a lot better if the guy could sing. The band does a good job with the song and avoids overkill, but the lead singer leaves something to be desired.
That’s all.Â That’s my review of each of the 34 songs on the 2. Contamination album.Â Please feel free to add your own reviews in the comments section.