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In the dept. of full disclosure: I agreed to write about what I thought of tonight's Cut Copy show at the Roseland here on the gaps in exchange for tickets to the show. Which feels a little weird, but what the hell. My reaction to seeing them live was actually pretty much the same as hearing their record: they've got an aesthetic and a sound and they're deep into it, but there's something missing from it. I mean, when I hear "Future" (which they segued into from Daft Punk's "Around the World"--not covering it, actually playing the track), it seems like the dub version that would be the second track on the B-side of a good new-romantic-type 12-inch single from 1984 or so--intensified rhythm track, backing vocals boosted in the mix, lead vocals and melody synth missing. (That's not entirely unlike what Out Hud sounded like to me at first, except that Out Hud seemed more specifically like the dubs on the B-sides of New Order singles: a thing-in-itself, not a DJ tool.)

Also, two songs in 10 minutes had the band trying to get the audience to do a "clap, clap, clap, clap-clap" routine. And I know it shouldn't bother me any more when bands prominently feature prerecorded material on stage, we're all grown-up futurists now, etc., but it still seems a little dubious to me when one of the sounds that nobody is visibly producing is the lead vocal. They do have that French disco whomp I like just as much as anyone else with more than one Daft Punk CD, and I keep thinking that their songs have almost hit the end of the intro and are about to go somewhere, especially since the band's so obviously having fun playing them, but then the "intro" just keeps going for the rest of the song. I think I'd actually rather hear their remixes of other people's records than their own.

As for the rest of the show: TV on the Radio bulldozed over almost everything I like about their records (two-voice interactions, textural subtlety, negative space) with a great big furry wall of roooaaaar. And Franz Ferdinand have become the heteroflexible Bay City Rollers of 2005, which I mean in a good way--that rhythm section (& light show!) kept the energy up for almost the whole show, and I haven't heard that many girls shrieking in a really long time.

Record of the day here is Sinead O'Connor's Throw Down Your Arms, her album of roots reggae covers. Which is not quite as silly a concept as the Willie Nelson reggae album--she's obviously had an affinity for this stuff for a long time (cf. "Fire on Babylon"). But in order to think straight about it, I had to remind myself of what I liked about her before she became a full-time professional wingnut: a voice that's distinctive and attractive and just on the correct side of relying on favorite tics, the ability to get across a pointed lyric understatedly (and to sound like she's understating even when she's yelling), good taste in collaborators and sidepeople.

Can't argue with the third one here, either: Sly & Robbie and a bunch of Jamaica's finest. The repertoire looks like it might've started out as a Burning Spear tribute--five Winston Rodney songs, including the first four. The rest are drawn from a bunch of other artists' repertoires--Lee Perry's "Vampire" is, sadly, not the one where he calls Chris Blackwell a vampire, and Peter Tosh's "Downpressor Man" is a rewrite of "Sinner Man" that gets Sinead's best vocal here. You can tell how much she's relishing singing "where you gonna fuckin' run to?" at the end.

But the liner notes bring us back to nuttyville. She credits the roots reggae originators as "part of a battle fought... for the freeing of God from religion," which is an... unusual interpretation of hardcore Rastafarianism. I mean, she's singing Burning Spear's "Jah Nuh Dead"; she can't have failed to catch the words she's singing. She also notes that she's "kept exactly true to the originals," aside from "key changes to suit a woman's voice." (Well, a particular woman's voice._

If that's the case, there's not much of a point to putting it out as a record, unless she seriously thinks that it'll reach a whole lot of people who'd never have heard of the Wailers' "War" otherwise. One of the songs she sings here is Junior Byles' glorious "Curly Locks," which got covered rather beautifully by the trip-hop band Baby Fox a few years back. Their version works because it doesn't pretend to be true to the original, or to reject it--it flirts with the original arrangement, brushes up against it, and then dances away and does its own thing most of the time, up to and including adding a countermelody with a new lyric. When Sinead sings "Curly Locks," she's so careful to honor the letter of Byles' version that she misses its wit and seductiveness: she's murmuring "your father is a pork chop" with a straight face and wide, dewy eyes.

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This page contains a single entry by Douglas published on October 3, 2005 11:56 PM.

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