Saturday, August 31, 2013

The Unbearable Itch: a tribute to Little Fyodor

It is not often that a cover version improves or equals the original - I still think Leonard Cohen's Hallelujah is the best. 

I have only heard one Little Fyodor album, reviewed ages ago on the blog (Peace is Boring, from Public Eyesore), so can't speak comprehensively. But this set of covers The Unscratchable Itch (PE122: available from Public Eyesore) of his songs often improve and develop from either the originals I have heard or the impression given by that earlier release. The good ones emphasize the lyrics or musicality of the works, provide a diversity of voices & don't include the distracting babushka. As I wrote before, Fyodor can write a great hook & many are on display here. 

We open with Ralph Gean singing All my clothes are uncomfortable which seems to be close to the Fyodor ethos but Gean's voice has a more serious tonality which adds to the song. I believe in god (Patrick Porter) is also close to home but develops the song while on Get out of my head the Voodoo Organist gets down and rocks. 

The version of You give me a hard-on by Dan Susnara demonstrates where things can go wrong - a fake crooner with cheesy special effects tries for comedy and fails - emphasized by The Inactivists later version of the same song. With sax and guitar and some fabulous orchestration it takes the song seriously and makes it really cool but adds anger to the vocal. This is one of the highlights, along with Boyd Rice's The blackness which impresses with its simple dark production and female chorus.

I won't comment on every track - good or bad - but some of the other high points are Amy Denio who extracts the seriousness and music on The god gripe song and injects some pleasant female harmonies; a swampy psychedelic Happy people from Brian M Clark. A couple of tracks cutup the vocals and add electronica - Cruising (bummer scene) from Diablo Mountain sounds like a remix and Darren Douglas Danahy provides a change with abstract electronics and distorted vocals on No relief in sight.

Lasse Jensen does two songs - a cool translated version of I want an ugly girl and a smashup Everybody's fucking: playing around with song lyrics and just having fun.

Outside these there is a live death metal noise version of Won't somebody fill the void (Blood Rhythms), a rockabilly I wanna be the buddha (Evan Cantor), shouted punk That was a mistake (Us from the Superfuture) and Nervesandgel is a growling devil on Doomed. And much more 

The sequence is good - the first few tracks being more consistent with what I know of Little Fyodor and then moving into a range of directions with the music. And again, he can write hooky tunes, thoughtful lyrics and thought provoking comedy.

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