The original of this song is almost the exact opposite; bombastic and large. This is just downright creepy. I used it in my showreel and it fit perfectly, timed blood dropping with the beats.
Polly – Amanda Palmer
Yet another cover. I swear this list won’t all mostly covers. I hope. I listened to this song 10 times in a row whilst I was writing Poppy Blooms; which probably explains a lot about that film.
Don’t Think Twice, It’s Alright – Ke$ha
Yeah, another cover, and this time it’s by a pop artist. But trust me; this is hauntingly beautiful and is the entire reason why I think Ke$ha gets a lot more stick than she deserves. But you might already know this because if I have a conversation about music with anybody for more than 5 minutes I will bring up this song. And nine times out of ten I have to follow it with “no, seriously, trust me on this”. No music, just her voice gasping the words in your ear.
Where The Wild Roses Grow – Nick Cave and Kylie Minogue
From Ke$ha to Kylie, not the worlds greatest transition, but meh. There’s also a version of this somewhere done by a band who sing it in German. If you listen to that whilst walking through a graveyard at 4am, it will fuck you up. A really good murder ballad which must have taken incredible balls on the part of both performers, who both risked alienating their current fan bases.
Red Right Hand – Nick Cave
I know, two Nick Cave songs, that’s possibly cheating, but who cares? Kind of an unofficial theme song for the Scream film series, being remade/remixed for every entry, but none are as haunting, beautiful, and as “sound of being followed down a dark alleyway by someone with a knife” like as this.
Creep – Scala & Kolacny Brothers
Best known as “that song from that trailer, no, not I Feel Good, or Walking On Sunshine, the unhappy bleak one”. The original was quite creepy yet this makes it more so. They also did a cover of Muscle Museum which just takes on all kinds of an emotional journey.
Cities In Dust – Siouxsie And The Banshees
Oddly danceable, kind of like dark disco. Made an appearance this year in Atomic Blonde, which if you haven’t seen, you need to remedy that and see it immediately, a wonderfully made film with one of the best soundtracks I’ve ever heard. And it means I won’t have wasted my time making sure I spelt Siouxsie correctly.
Similar to our re-recording of The Black Parade (as seen here and here) which, considering MCR are now planning something for the anniversary of it probably could have been better timed. For those of who didn’t read those this is simple: I pick an album and then pick the bands I’d like to cover each song. For this week I picked Bleed American (re-titled Jimmy Eat World after 9/11), which celebrated it’s fifteen year anniversary this week. So, here goes.
Bleed American – Fall Out Boy
Fast, raucous and the sound of a drunken house party. This song mainly needed to have the guitar strong at the front, and a strong enough vocal performance to carry this off. So I found FOB to be the perfect choice. On the downside I was going to pick Patrick Stump to do one of the later songs, had to go against that for this, and can’t have two Stumps, that way madness lies.
A Praise Chorus – Less Than Jake
One of the only songs I owned before I had the album (live version on a compilation) so will always have a special place in my heart. I was going to pick an acoustic band to cover this song as I feel that would make a good version and turn it into a kind of sweet piece of music, would add an extra level of emotion to it. Then I listened to it again and pictured someone singing it and doing that weird “jumping with your shoulders” thing at certain points of the song, then realised the jumpy dancy nature of it. As such I thought I should play up that aspect of it, and there’s only one way to do that: MORE HORNS!!! Then LTJ voices were in my head and it just meshed perfectly.
The Middle – Regina Spektor
Weird choice I know. This song is ridiculously peppy and brilliant, so you’d expect me to pick another pop-punk band for this, maybe Green Day, maybe Sum 41, maybe even go slightly ska and go with Reel Big Fish. But I feel that musically they would all sound too similar and would just be “lead vocalist” karaoke. This song is in my top 100 of all time, so if I hear it covered I want to hear something new done with it, I want to hear a completely different version. Maybe a female vocal version? Maybe a female vocal version done on a piano? Maybe Regina Spektor? Yeah, Regina Spektor. Her voice is haunting and beautiful, and to hear her sing this would add an entirely different layer to it and could end up being quite emotional.
Your House – Say Anything
Again, to add emotion. But not a “weepy weepy cry cry” emotion, Max Bemis voice is perfect for that bitter angry sarcastic misanthropic tone. So if anything this will do the opposite of what my previous choices have done, instead of adding emotion, this will change it, it will make the entire song seem angry instead of sweet, but also like he’s broken by the entire experience. Was also considering Saves The Day for this, as his voice would also be perfect for a Jimmy Eat World song.
Sweetness – Tegan And Sara
Mainly because this version would be danceable as hell. It would seem slightly less angry but it would be the perfect song to put a smile on your face and an extra skip in your step as go through your daily routine waiting for death.
Hear You Me – Amanda Palmer
Because I’m not letting you get through this album without crying your eyes out, and what better choice than this song? And what better way to do it than an empty voice at a piano just completely draining you of everything until you’re an empty husk of who you used to be.
If You Don’t Don’t – Desaparecidos
Hot damn I love Conor Oberst, his voice has a kind of shakey uneasy vibe to it, like he’s about one incident away from completely breaking down or going insane, you can’t tell which as it sounds like both at once. As such it would be perfect for this song, but I couldn’t go with Bright Eyes as musically that would be a terrible mix, so I went with his other band, Desaperecidos. Musically very different from Bright Eyes but equally amazing in parts, them covering this song would be the soundtrack to a thousand stroppy teenagers.
Get It Faster – Bright Eyes
I know, more Conor Oberst, I’ll go sit in the corner and think about what I’ve done. And now I’m back and here to tell you why you’re wrong to judge me. Because this would be amazing! Now for this I’m thinking of specific type of Bright Eyes, the kind of weird death-disco/digital-folk from Digital Ash In A Digital Urn. This song revolves around the slow build up and then the vocal release, and few people accomplished this as well as Oberst did on that album.
Cautioners – Get Cape. Wear Cape. Fly
Because it’s practically a Get Cape. Wear Cape. Fly song already, just written and performed entirely by someone else.
The Authority Song – Marina And The Diamonds
This is purely because I’m curious as to what it would sound like. It could be a complete disaster, it could be the best thing since sliced bread warmed up with cheese and Worcestershire sauce.
My Sundown – My Chemical Romance (With Full Orchestral Backing)
Now when I say My Chemical Romance I mean full-on Black Parade My Chem. When they were at there most bombastic, their most theatrical, and (some would argue) their best. Them doing this would be the perfect closing to this project, it would be big enough so that the compilation felt like it had a closer, a grand finale to the audio trip through the album. The orchestra? Well that will just make it better, will make it seem bigger, will make it seem more draining, you will listen to this and feel exhausted by the end of it, which this album needs, as the original is (dare say it) kind of a bland way to close it.
So that’s this over, what do you think ? Where did we go wrong? Where did we go right? What would have been better?
BECK: Mongolian Chop Squad is one of those rare feats of fiction that gets music. It’s not just about music or musicians, it doesn’t just feature great music; it gets music. The power it has; the power to move people, the power to bring them together, and inspire you to take over the world (not literally). It’s like an anime Almost Famous.
The anime (and Manga but I’ll get to that) follows 14 year old Koyuki over the years, as he learns to play guitar, makes real friends, starts a band, and discovers who he really is…(it’s a coming of age anime, what do you expect). And unlike most shows/films about bands, this isn’t about them making it; for the majority of the show all they play in are dive bars and night clubs. The shows about the struggle, the struggle to learn, and to keep going against the odds, and about the bond Koyuki forms with the people he plays music with. It’s about the expression music can give you, as a global translator to reach everyone and anyone from any walk of life.
Beyond Koyuki and his life, the show also follows Ryusuke, the lead guitarist and leader of the titular band BECK, who is the other heart of the show. He’s Koyuki’s main inspiration to grow and become more comfortable with himself, to mature to a teenager with a clear goal in his life. While Ryusuke tries to go beyond that, developing from a teenager with a goal to an adult with an outcome, and dealing with those good or bad. The bad mainly resolving around a mafia subplot…go figure.
Outside of them, and with the exception of Koyuki’s love interest and Ryusuke’s sister, the passive aggressive badass Maho, the rest of the band don’t get much development. They’re presented to us as whole beings and they stay that way for the remainder of the anime (the mange is a different story, but I’ll get to that), hell the prototypical bully characters (it’s high school, they have to be there) gets some of the best development in the series. I wouldn’t call this so much a fault as just an occurrence, theres only so much time, so the focus needs to be where it needs to be. Nothing gained but nothing lost.
BECK is also one of those rare cases in anime that is….What’s the old saying? 40% of anime is better subbed, 30% it doesn’t matter either way, and only 10% of anime is better dubbed. BECK joins the ranks of Cowboy Bebop, Baccano, and Black Lagoon, which are just better dubbed, way better. This is thanks to a dubbing team who really gave a damn, and it clearly wasn’t a, ‘this is popular let’s put it in English’, it was a passion project for all involved, and it shows.
It shows most clearly in the amazing music and genuinely awesome songs. Most English dubs of anime about music, dub everything but the music, like K-on and NANA (another pretty good music anime), as its hard work to get new singers in, and translate the songs beyond awkward engrish, but BECK did. And it needed to really, as the songs aren’t just window dressing between the melodrama. Like real music the songs are character driven, and reflect a lot of the later themes and messages of the series. And the music’s just plane awesome. I own the soundtrack.
The band sound like the love child of Rage Against the Machine and Oasis, with Flea on bass. This is because they have two vocalists, the awesome and funny Chiba as the rapper, and our protagonist Koyuki as the singer. His singing voice being one of the main pushes of the series. It’s not just that the songs sound good, they work perfectly in the plot too, representing what they need, be it the progression of the character, a relationship, or the band itself. The climactic song ‘Slip Out’ not only works beautifully as a representation of Koyuki’s development from hapless teenager to musician, but it also sounds like a classic song, like a Smells Like Teen Spirit or Wonderwall, a song that could define a generation.
Another way the Dub is smart is in its copyright, as unlike in a the Japanese production, the English couldn’t name drop all the bands and use all of the music it once did, so the Sex Pistols become Love Gun, Anarchy in the UK becoming Anarchy Britannia. And a kinda random but awesome I’ve Got a feeling cover becomes an original song by the anime’s Nirvana- esque stand in The Dying Breed, the band that inspired Koyuki to pick up the guitar. It’s a smart, character driven dub.
If I have to speak of some weakness for BECK, it’s slow to start. It takes its time introducing the characters, setting up the band, following Koyuki’s development as a guitar player, ect. All good stuff, but when I re-watch the series (and of course I don’t recommend this for new viewers) I skip the first 5ish episodes, just to jump into the build-up to Koyuki joining the band and the main plot getting underway. The animation is also pretty cheap a lot of the time but it was a cheap show, it’s rarely scene breaking, but for Anime fans used to their Madhouses, Studio Ghiblis, and what not, it may be a bit jarring.
Now the manga is slightly different. As I said the Anime isn’t about the band making it, it’s more about them doing it. And the manga is about that too, but it’s just a hell of a lot longer and follows all the ups and downs as the band…make it…and they do by no easy means. If you can find it I highly recommend the manga, it lacks the audio aspect obviously (which to a music based story is important) but it keeps going with the great characters, ideas and story much further than in the anime.
Leading to a lot more character development all around, Chiba (the rapper) especially gets focus as Koyuki writes more and more songs for his own voice, causing Chiba to have an existential crises about his place in the band, prompting an 8 Mile like arc of becoming an underground rapper.
There is also a whole host of fun new characters, mainly in the form of other bands they meet along their way to the big leagues, who help redefine how BECK see themselves, and expands the size and reach of the BECK world.
AND there’s even a live action film, and it’s a Japanese one luckily, so their history of anime to live action adaption is a lot cleaner than most. But even so the prospect of condensing a 26 episode anime into a two and a half hour film is daunting. But I’m pleased to say they did it pretty well, far from my favorite telling of the BECK story, but they make some smart choices to condense it and its worth a watch if you’re a fan and want to see a different take on it.
BECK isn’t just my favorite anime; it’s one of my favorite shows of any kind. And it could be yours too. So in the immortal words of Chiba… turn up that fucking guitar and keep on rocking!