Got It Covered: “Paper Planes” (M.I.A. vs. The Clientele)

February 23, 2012

The best cover songs put a new spin on a song without rendering it entirely unrecognizable. Sometimes they are better than the original, sometimes not — while covering a song invites comparison, why not enjoy both?Here’s a song for you to consider from angles both recognizable and unfamiliar.

Now hold up a minute. I know that to mention M.I.A. — especially on the wide world of the internet — is to provoke an immediate war of opinions  Her music and her public persona (ahem) are polarizing: She’s either avant-garde or an annoyance. However, I propose a compromise in the form of a cover song that replaces M.I.A.’s boldness with an otherworldly vibe.

Those who find M.I.A.’s music to be unpalatable are invited to skip the following video. The rest of you: For purposes of comparison, here is the track “Paper Planes” from her 2007 release Kala. It is highly likely that you have heard it before, as it received heavy airplay in addition to appearing in the film Slumdog Millionaire.  Classic rock fans haunted by a sense of familiarity might also identify the sample from The Clash’s song “Straight to Hell.”

As a part of the A.V. Club’s “Undercover” series, British band The Clientele opted to cover “Paper Planes.”  The ethereal, somewhat breathy music of The Clientele makes this an odd choice, and the diversity of styles produces a truly strange cover song. M.I.A.’s gunshot and cash register sound effects are replaced by tambourine and xylophone hits, while The Clash sample is transformed into a fluttering violin intro.

In this reimagining of “Paper Planes,” what was formerly a gunshot-riddled, hip hop-inflected jam becomes sunny and slightly psychedelic. Whether you love the original or took pleasure in skipping it in the section above, The Clientele’s cover takes it in an unexpected direction. The best part is that instead of forcing you to choose between two like versions of the song, the cover builds upon the original to create an entirely new experience.

Too Evil to Have a Human Name

February 16, 2012

The Black Sabbath reunion has become not much of a reunion due to drummer Bill Ward pulling out because of problems with the contract he was offered. Not sure if I’m going to care about the new album or tour anymore. Can they write new songs and still capture the heavy swing that was so important without their drummer?

This is classic Black Sabbath, which no reunion can capture — especially without Bill Ward on drums:

In Pittsburgh there are some concerts and releases coming up that everyone should support:

A number of album release concerts: Fist Fight in the Parking Lot on February 25 at the 31st Street Pub, Invader on March 10 at the Smiling Moose, and Vulture on March 31 at the 31st Street Pub.

The Pittsburgh band Dream Death, who released a number of demos in the mid ’80s and one full length called Journey into Mystery, are reuniting and playing with epic doom metal band Argus April 21at the 31st Street Pub. Their sound was very Celtic Frost doomy thrash:

On Saturday, February 25 at The Shop in Bloomfield you can check out Winter’s Wake 2012 with a long lineup that starts at 2:30 p.m.:


I’ve been enjoying this track by the band Vitandus and look forward to their new EP Macabre Incarnate which will be released at Winter’s Wake. Listen to “Macabre Incarnate” here.

Until next time…

MMW: Foals

February 11, 2012

Foals will be played on MMW at 5 p.m. on Sunday.

I can’t remember exactly how I came upon Foals, but I do know it was love at first listen. It was during my math/electro-rock phase (other bands that were getting heavy plays at the time were Klaxons and Kasabian). Foals’ first album, Antidotes, rocked my world. Being a drummer and loving weird beats, this was perfect for my developing skills. I listened almost exclusively to the album and tried to mimic the patterns I was hearing on my set, and it was pretty difficult, since there was a lot of subtle stuff going on. I think that hyper-attentiveness caused me to grow a deeper attachment the album as a whole. My favorite song from that album was, and still is, “Two Steps Twice.” Probably because it has the most interesting drum part, but I also love the ¾ time going into a fucking rockin’ dance beat. So I listened to them for about a year and a half solid.

Then their second album was announced, Total Life Forever. They released the first single, “Spanish Sahara,” and it was quite different from the band I had come to know and love. The song starts out soft and quiet, with not much more than a piano and vocals. I was skeptical. Then the build started to happen. It built and built, and it turned into a beautifully articulate piece. Though it lacked the math-rockiness that I had always associated with Foals, it was amazing. It was Foals, but it was a new, more robust, fuller version. I was taken aback by it, and I was hungry for more; I wanted to know what other changes they had made to their sound, or if this was just one song that showed off that they were branching out a bit. I had to wait a month or so, but eventually their second single dropped, “This Orient.” Here was the upbeat, dance music that I had, admittedly, missed after they released the former single. It still was nowhere near as rhythmically intricate as the stuff from their freshman album, but it showed that they could still make the music I loved them for. All I had to do now was to wait for the album to drop. I was so impatient that I even dropped a bit of extra cash to get it a few days before it was released.

And drop it did. I listened to the first song, and was in love. They had done it. After listening to it again and again, I was convinced that Foals’ sophomore lived up to and even rivaled their first album in terms of greatness. TLF might not quite reach the pure dance/math rock awesomeness that was Antidotes, but it is a great piece of art. It’s also more approachable and accessible than Antidotes was, simply because it’s not dancey and mathy. Today, I think I might actually like TLF more than Antidotes (except for “Two Steps Twice,” which still may be my favorite song they’ve put out). My only request would be for them to FUCKING COME TO PITTSBURGH BECAUSE I WANT TO SEE THEM LIVE AND I’M SERIOUS YOU GUYS.

If you’re interested in hearing a collection of my favorite Foals songs and some very good b-sides and covers by them, tune in to MMW at 5pm on Sunday! I’ve marked up a rough list of what I’ll be playing below:

Astronauts & All (Hummer B-Side)
Two Steps Twice (Antidotes)
This Orient (Total Life Forever)
Hollaback Girl (Gwen Stefani Cover)
Balloons (Antidotes)
Wear and Tear (Miami B-Side)
What Remains (Total Life Forever)
One (Swedish House Mafia Cover)

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