Wednesday, October 14, 2009

#80. 'I could be in love with almost everyone'

Calexico "Alone Again Or"

One of the interesting phenomena attendant to getting in to music is the way that a cover version can take the place of the original in your mind simply because it was the one you heard first. Hell, you can go for years not even realizing that a certain song is a cover version if you don't look into it. It creates a bit of an odd logic loop, you know that the older song is the original but in your mind it always comes after whichever version you actually heard first. Of course this generally only causes any sort of problem when the cover version is either a radical reinterpretation or just a better version full stop. Given my rather late-blooming interest in music on any sort of obsessive level this sort of thing happens quite often, but it's very rare that I can't get myself to fully come around to seeing the older version as the original which was retooled into whichever version I heard first. It's not an essential thing to do, granted, but the occasions where I can't quite make that happen in my brain generally indicate a vastly superior cover version.

In 2004 I wasn't too concerned with doing any sort of large scale dive into the rock music canon, hell even today I still have a lot of fairly glaring blind spots in that area, so the first taste I got of Love's "Alone Again Or" was courtesy of Calexico, who happened to be one of my absolute favorite bands at the time. Between 1998's sprawling, loose The Black Light and 2003's Feast of Wire the duo had created a series of truly peerless rock-cum-miriachi albums that never seemed to lean too hard on the latter style as a crutch. At the time that they released "Alone Again Or" as a single they were in the midst of a 'can-do-no-wrong' streak tat many other artists would kill for, and my initial impression of the song was pretty positive. I only later found out that it was a cover, and a cover form one of those albums I by all rights should have heard by then no less. It was still a few years before I finally got around to actually listening to Love's version, mainly because my appreciation for the song was so tied up in the Calexico one that I'd convinced myself that no other version was necessary.

And oddly enough, hearing the Love version only served to increase my appreciation of the Calexico version. Joey Burns' voice fits the song like a glove while Bryan McLean's vocals on the original, and most of his vocals period come to think of it, don't have the same resonance for me. The Calexico-ization of the song also adds a lot to my enjoyment of it as well, lacing the louder sections with brass blasts and transferring the guitar solo section over to a cornet just make the song feel that much more interesting to me. Outside of those two modifications though we're pretty much talking about the same exact song. It's not a re-interpretation in drastic ways so much as a pretty straight read through of a classic with the band still able to leave their own stamp on the proceedings. Yet their stamp manages to take the song to the higher level that the original just can't reach for me. It's an example of a n excellent song needing just that little bit of tweaking to fully reveal itself, and the fact that the version that did that for it came to my ears first just cast the original in a lesser light. It's a fantastic song either way, but the little things Calexico bring to the table have the edge for me.

Coming up tomorrow: *insert image of that cartoon dude whose eyes pop out of his head and cause that obnoxious 'AWOOOOOOOOOOOOGA' on the soundtrack whenever a toothsome female walks by*

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