Music

The Hot Rats: Turn Ons

Two-thirds of Supergrass cut loose with some well-chosen covers. Innovative? Maybe not. Fun? Hell yes.


The Hot Rats

Turn Ons

Label: Fat Possum
US Release Date: 2010-01-19
UK Release Date: 2010-01-25
Amazon
iTunes

Supergrass, to the extent to which they have any kind of stateside reputation, exist in the minds of many as a Britpop also-ran. Not as intellectual as Blur in their heyday, nor as thuggish and brash as Oasis, Supergrass managed to find a scruffier, more playful kind of arena-ready simplicity that allowed them to avoid any bloated catastrophes like Be Here Now. Turn Ons, by Supergrass offshoot the Hot Rats, manages to retain that same sensibility.

The Hot Rats consist entirely of Supergrass singer/guitarist/frontman Gaz Coombes and Supergrass drummer Danny Goffey (the bass player must have been busy that week). Their material consists entirely of other bands' songs. The results are split between genuine fun and ho-hum predictability, with a fortunate emphasis on the former. This dichotomy applies both to material and arrangements. No one will be surprised to learn, for example, that the guys from Supergrass like the Sex Pistols enough to cover one of their songs. Similarly, their version of David Bowie's "Queen Bitch" is more or less exactly like the original, only stripped down to a leaner guitar/bass/drums format. All it really does is remind you that "Queen Bitch" is really cool -- then you pull out Hunky Dory and the Hot Rats are all but forgotten.

The Hot Rats' version of "(You Gotta) Fight for Your Right (To Party!)", however, is the kind of reinvention that justifies the existence of covers albums in the first place. By writing an entirely new melody and replacing the signature riff with an airy two-chord acoustic vamp, the Hot Rats have transformed the song into a completely different animal, while retaining the original's anthemic qualities. The only awkward moment is the substitution of "Hot Rats boys" for "Beastie Boys" in the third verse. (Hey, it still rhymes, right?)

Along the same lines, their version of "Love Is the Drug", while maintaining Roxy Music's disco sensibilities, changes the drug from glassy cocaine splendor to beer-and-weed rambunctiousness. The Hot Rats improve on the Cure's "The Lovecats" by playing up the rhythmic aspect and propelling the song along with "Lust for Life"-style drums. Presenting Gang of Four's "Damaged Goods" in an acoustic format teases out nuances that are much harder to discern in the abrasive original.

Other covers are less successful. The Doors' "The Crystal Ship" would remain perfervid hogwash regardless of its presentation, but exaggerating the dynamic shifts and bombast doesn't really help. (Full disclosure: I just plain don't like the Doors. Someone else might dig this track.) Despite slight changes in instrumentation, new versions of "Pump It Up" and the Sex Pistols' "E.M.I." suffer from the "Queen Bitch" problem, and while they add a few new riffs to the Velvet Underground's "I Can't Stand It", the finished product just kind of sits there. As for Pink Floyd's "Bike", well, no one can out-weird Syd Barrett. Any attempt to do so is bound to come up short, and actually releasing the results only draws attention to the divide. Of course, deranged psychedelia provides such a flawless counterpoint to the disquietingly childlike lyrics, so a stripped-down garage-rock version wouldn't have worked either… maybe they just shouldn't do that one.

Outside of the phenomenal misstep of "Bike", though, Turn Ons remains high-spirited and fun throughout. Even if new versions of "Queen Bitch" or "Pump It Up" don't do a whole lot to justify their existence, they don't represent a net loss to humanity; they're good songs, performed with love and conviction. The lasting impression is of a rock band -- experienced but still energetic -- screwing around in the studio or garage and playing some of their favorite tunes. Presumably, that's the whole point; if so, they've succeeded admirably. Whether you want to stick around for the whole session is up to you. It's worth at least dropping by.

7

The year in song reflected the state of the world around us. Here are the 70 songs that spoke to us this year.

70. The Horrors - "Machine"

On their fifth album V, the Horrors expand on the bright, psychedelic territory they explored with Luminous, anchoring the ten new tracks with retro synths and guitar fuzz freakouts. "Machine" is the delicious outlier and the most vitriolic cut on the record, with Faris Badwan belting out accusations to the song's subject, who may even be us. The concept of alienation is nothing new, but here the Brits incorporate a beautiful metaphor of an insect trapped in amber as an illustration of the human caught within modernity. Whether our trappings are technological, psychological, or something else entirely makes the statement all the more chilling. - Tristan Kneschke

Keep reading... Show less

This has been a remarkable year for shoegaze. If it were only for the re-raising of two central pillars of the initial scene it would still have been enough, but that wasn't even the half of it.

It hardly needs to be said that the last 12 months haven't been everyone's favorite, but it does deserve to be noted that 2017 has been a remarkable year for shoegaze. If it were only for the re-raising of two central pillars of the initial scene it would still have been enough, but that wasn't even the half of it. Other longtime dreamers either reappeared or kept up their recent hot streaks, and a number of relative newcomers established their place in what has become one of the more robust rock subgenre subcultures out there.

Keep reading... Show less
Theatre

​'The Ferryman': Ephemeral Ideas, Eternal Tragedies

The current cast of The Ferryman in London's West End. Photo by Johan Persson. (Courtesy of The Corner Shop)

Staggeringly multi-layered, dangerously fast-paced and rich in characterizations, dialogue and context, Jez Butterworth's new hit about a family during the time of Ireland's the Troubles leaves the audience breathless, sweaty and tearful, in a nightmarish, dry-heaving haze.

"Vanishing. It's a powerful word, that"

Northern Ireland, Rural Derry, 1981, nighttime. The local ringleader of the Irish Republican Army gun-toting comrades ambushes a priest and tells him that the body of one Seamus Carney has been recovered. It is said that the man had spent a full ten years rotting in a bog. The IRA gunslinger, Muldoon, orders the priest to arrange for the Carney family not to utter a word of what had happened to the wretched man.

Keep reading... Show less
10

Aaron Sorkin's real-life twister about Molly Bloom, an Olympic skier turned high-stakes poker wrangler, is scorchingly fun but never takes its heroine as seriously as the men.

Chances are, we will never see a heartwarming Aaron Sorkin movie about somebody with a learning disability or severe handicap they had to overcome. This is for the best. The most caffeinated major American screenwriter, Sorkin only seems to find his voice when inhabiting a frantically energetic persona whose thoughts outrun their ability to verbalize and emote them. The start of his latest movie, Molly's Game, is so resolutely Sorkin-esque that it's almost a self-parody. Only this time, like most of his better work, it's based on a true story.

Keep reading... Show less
7

There's something characteristically English about the Royal Society, whereby strangers gather under the aegis of some shared interest to read, study, and form friendships and in which they are implicitly agreed to exist insulated and apart from political differences.

There is an amusing detail in The Curious World of Samuel Pepys and John Evelyn that is emblematic of the kind of intellectual passions that animated the educated elite of late 17th-century England. We learn that Henry Oldenburg, the first secretary of the Royal Society, had for many years carried on a bitter dispute with Robert Hooke, one of the great polymaths of the era whose name still appears to students of physics and biology. Was the root of their quarrel a personality clash, was it over money or property, over love, ego, values? Something simple and recognizable? The precise source of their conflict was none of the above exactly but is nevertheless revealing of a specific early modern English context: They were in dispute, Margaret Willes writes, "over the development of the balance-spring regulator watch mechanism."

Keep reading... Show less
8
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.

rating-image