Saturday, October 3, 2009

#89. 'That's not nice, the way you treat me'

Fight Like Apes "Jake Summers"

"Jake Summers" is a bit of an oddity in the scope of this list in that there are two separate versions that were given some form of single treatment. Initially it was the version from FLA's debut EP How Am I Supposed to Kill You When You Have All the Guns?, basically a glorified demo recording albeit one with a highly visible spark of creativity, that was issued as a separate 7", then upon the release of the band's official debut ...and the Mystery of the Golden Medallion a year later, the rerecorded version was released as the unofficial first single. The differences between the two versions are readily evident, but they illustrate one of the most fascinating aspects of a band's evolution: the jump from the demo to the first studio effort. It's not always an easy transition to analyze, though in the era of peer-to-peer music trading there's a larger chance of coming across the first foray a band makes into the world of recording, but hearing how well the rawness of those early recordings translates to actual production compared to playing into your friend's 4-track is often a fascinating thing to hear.

The original release is raw as hell. The playing is more rudimentary, the production muddier and the whole track plods along at a not-fast-enough tempo, and yet "Jake Summers" still comes across as a great, great song in spite of all those faults. It could just be the fact that I heard the 2008 version first and thus know what a few minor adjustments brought out in it, but even if the order I heard them in had been reversed I'd like to think I would hear the potential in the 2007 version. The way that potential got brought out is pretty simple, it was just minor tweaks to the sound as opposed to a full scale overhaul, but the results were undeniable. From the get go it's obvious that not only is the production much improved but that the bad are much more skilled and confident. The bassline is faster and slightly more intricate, the synths are less rudimentary and Maykay's vocals are much more upfront and unrelenting. The rawness is still there, but it doesn't muddy up the track the way it did on the initial version.

The weird thing is that in either iteration, if you were to parse out the different elements of the track and just list them on paper it would look like one of the worst songs ever. Musically it looks like a painful combination of synth racketry and rudimentary rhythm work all gone about while a shrieky woman lays out some questionable phrases in the context of a series of unconnected vignettes. And yet, the way Fight Like Apes go about it nothing could be further from the case. all those things are true, sure, but they sound utterly fantastic in context. What does the second verse have to do with the first verse? Does it fucking matter when it's setting up that primal wail before the last chorus? Are the synths really the best place to focus the track? Just listen to the pre-chorus where the band approaches prettiness for a few lines with an absolutely sublime synth underlay. The whole song refutes the sort of annoyingness that it's elements suggest by placing them in contexts where that sort of misgiving doesn't matter one iota. Most of all, it refutes them by being fun all the way through, a quality sorelye lacking in a lot of modern singles no matter the genre.

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