Tokyo Police Club

Covered: “Since U Been Gone”

Covered is a feature where we examine the merits of various cover songs, debating whether or not they capture the spirit and intent of the original, if the cover adds anything new, and whether or not it perhaps surpasses the original. If we fail on those counts, at the very least we may expose you to different versions of great songs you hadn’t heard before.

After reading all these articles about the omnipresent-yet-invisible songwriter Max Martin, as well as seeing Tokyo Police Club perform a version of the song, I have now thought about the song “Since U Been Gone” far more in the past few weeks than at any other point previously in my life.  It is definitely one of the modern pop songs that bothers me the least, though that is in no small part due to the fact that I was able to avoid hearing it repeated ad nauseam during its initial lifespan.  The fact that it is also a well-constructed song also works in its favor, with a great dynamic contrast between the soft verses and loud chorus, as well as that big hook in that memorable chorus melody.  There must be a reason why indie rock fans would cop to liking this song…

Oh yeah, that reason would be because Martin in fact looked to indie rock for songwriting inspiration.  Not only did he co-opt that trademark Pixies loud/soft contrast, but he reworked a previous hit song, “Maps” by the Yeah Yeah Yeahs.  He even admits this was his intention.  From The Atlantic, paraphrasing from John Seabrook’s recent book, The Song Machine:

They are listening, reportedly, to the Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ “Maps”—an infectious love song, at least by indie-rock standards. Martin is being driven crazy by the song’s chorus, however, which drops in intensity from the verse. Dr. Luke says, “Why don’t we do that, but put a big chorus on it?” He reworks a guitar riff from the song and creates Kelly Clarkson’s breakout hit, “Since U Been Gone.”

It is hilarious that Martin misunderstands that the drop in intensity was an intentional maneuver on the part of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, and helped strengthen the impact of the lyrics.  In a nutshell, that explains the difference between the approaches to songwriting in pop and indie rock–why be subtle when you can shout your intentions at the top of your lungs?  In this case, both ways worked.

But we should give kudos to Ted Leo for spotting the similarities between the two songs years before it was confirmed, and smoothly blending the two into a seamless whole.  The “Since U Been Gone/Maps” mash-up ends up being a good primer for the Ted Leo novice, as it shows both his vocal range and guitar chops (even with a minor flub at the end of the bridge taken into consideration), which helps elevate the cover above the standard “fans playing a favorite song in their bedroom” that can be found all over YouTube.  And it is proof once again that Ted Leo is the fucking coolest dude on the planet.

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Tokyo Police Club, Live at the Doug Fir

Last night’s Tokyo Police Club show at the Doug Fir captured the vibe of being packed into a basement for a house party, except for the fact that floors were not nearly as sticky and the band was way more professional and polished than whomever Dave could bribe to play for a case of cheap domestic.  The devoted showed up in full force last night, ready to sing along to to tracks that date back to the group’s first EP, and the group complied with an enthusiastic and lively set.

David Monks mid-rock-out maneuver

David Monks mid-rock-out maneuver

The band kicked off the show with a modification to their recent setlist by opening with “Breakneck Speed”, slightly altering the lyrics to say “it’s good to be back in Portland” in a nice bit of showmanship.  “Hot Tonight”, an effervescent highlight from their most recent album Forcefield soon followed, and set the mood for the evening.  The new material mixed in well with the old material, with the group focusing heavily on songs from the Champ era in filling out a twenty song set.

We were even treated to a couple of new songs, with bassist/singer David Monks giving a bit of the backstory for “PCH”, noting that the events of the romance took place on that highway that was, to paraphrase, not that far off from here.  Another highlight was fan-favorite “Bambi”, complete with an extended intro that did a great job in disguising what was to come, as well as early cuts like “Nature of the Experiment” and the infectious “Your English Is Good”.  For the encore, we were even treated to a cover of Kelly Clarkson’s “Since U Been Gone”, which managed to accomplish the difficult task of captivating this crowd packed with hipsters.

A good look at the friendly fellows

A good look at the friendly fellows

Openers The Domestics did a great job with their pop-rock set, effectively setting the mood for the rest of the night.  The local act kept the audience’s attention with a varied setup, switching between instruments and vocalists, all the while delivering punchy and engaging songs.  They will definitely be a highlight on many bills around town.

The Mid-Year Reassessment; Or, “We Should Probably Mention These Albums”

Our primary goal here at Rust Is Just Right is to spread the love of good music, generally through a careful and informed examination of precisely what makes certain music “good”.  We like to think we’ve done a fairly good job of this, through detailed album and live reviews as well as features like “Feats of Strength”.  But even with our best efforts, we haven’t been able to share all the great music we’ve heard so far this year.  So, we’re going to put a twist on a standard practice of most other music publications: instead of posting a Best of the Year (So Far) list, we’re going to list albums that we love but for some reason or another haven’t given the proper attention.

Albums from bands that deserve more recognition, but this wasn’t the one that would put them over the top:

Tokyo Police Club – Forcefield

We Are Scientists – TV en Francais

Album from a band that we didn’t really appreciate before, but really liked their new stuff

Wye Oak – Shriek

Great album from a band where we know the drummer

Slow Bird – Chrysalis

Great Hip-Hop albums we love, but we really suck at writing about Hip-Hop

Atmosphere – Southsiders

The Roots – …And Then You Shoot Your Cousin

Great Heavy Metal album we love, but we really suck at writing about Heavy Metal

Mastodon – Once More ‘Round the Sun

Album that we meant to review as part of a larger feature, but haven’t yet

Clap Your Hands Say Yeah – Only Run

Album that is so great that we’re kicking ourselves for not writing about it sooner

Sun Kil Moon – Benji

Catching Up On The Week (Apr. 4 Edition)

We’ve had some #longreads pile up over the week, so it’s a good thing the weekend is here.

Tomorrow is unfortunately a morbid twentieth anniversary, so there were plenty of Nirvana stories that were printed this week, with more certainly to follow.  Diffuser talked to a few musicians about how Nirvana personally influenced them and SPIN reprinted several memorials from legendary musicians in a slideshow.  Stereogum has a top ten list that inspires moderate eye-rolls (a real fake bold move by not including “Smells Like Teen Spirit”, and a real dumb move for not including “Sappy”, though a high ranking for “Serve the Servants” deserves a mild tip of the hat).  You can compare that list with Billboard’s ranking of their ten biggest hits on the alternative charts, which includes a couple of surprises.  And the list of presenters for the upcoming Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony was announced, which includes Michael Stipe being chosen to introduce Nirvana.

Speaking of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Rolling Stone interviewed the Hall of Fame CEO and got an inside look at some of the proceedings.  One tidbit I gathered from the piece is that there will be a Nirvana performance of some sort, though how it will actually shape out has not been revealed.

And continuing with the Nirvana theme, the AV Club gave another album a write-up in their “Permanent Records” feature, making the case that Dookie made Green Day the spiritual successor to Nirvana and I guess that grunge gave way to pop-punk?  We mentioned before that there’s going to be a lot of pieces this year about Dookie because of its 20th anniversary, but the most I can say about this piece is…it’s an article that exists.

A far better piece about the anniversary of a seminal album is Stereogum’s reflection on the ten year anniversary of Modest Mouse’s Good News For People Who Love Bad News.  We’ll do our own pieces in the future around the time Modest Mouse begins touring again at the beginning of May, but here’s a quick comment: the album is better than what old MM fans remember.

The Canadian Edition of the Huffington Post has an interview with Tokyo Police Club about the making of their new album Forcefield.  We’re debating whether or not to recommend the album and then run a review of it, but their earlier work is definitely worth checking out.  The band reveals what went on during the years since the release of Champ, and thank God they decided to go against someone’s advice to throw in some banjo.

Finally, we haven’t had the chance to show how much we love the finest heavy metal rockers from our neck of the woods, but let it be known that we are big fans of Red Fang here at RIJR.  Aaron Beam, the bassist and one of the vocalists of the band, did an interview with Songfacts that goes deep into the songwriting process of the band.  It’s amazing how so many of their songs are Frankenstein-like creations, stitched together from bits and pieces over the years, but you wouldn’t realize it just from listening because the sections fit so well.  And with the news that we discussed on our Tumblr about the retirement of David Letterman, this is the perfect time to share the video of their performance on the Late Show, with Paul Shaffer loving the song so much that he joins in on the keys.

What You’ve Missed (If You Haven’t Checked Our Tumblr)

Here’s another reminder that not only do we have this nifty website with all sorts of in-depth analysis, but we also have a spiffy Tumblr which is great for passing on little bits of news.  Sometimes we even make an attempt at a pithy comment!  If you haven’t checked it so far, you’ve missed news about the anniversary reissue of Soundgarden’s landmark album Superunknown, a new song from Tokyo Police Club, that The National will be the musical guest on Saturday Night Live on March 8th, and that the Eels will be releasing a new album and going on tour this spring.

Live at the Schnitz, well after Superunknown

Live at the Schnitz, well after Superunknown

So yeah, make it a habit to check out rustisjustright.tumblr.com, and you won’t miss out on stuff like this!  Unless of course, we do more of these round-ups.  Which we probably will, but just save yourself the hassle and go directly to the source.