Category: Charlie Parr

Review: Minnesota Beatle Project Vol. 3

As new local traditions go, few could be better or more welcome than the Minnesota Beatle Project, now in its third year of collecting Fab Four covers to raise money for music and art education. As on previous editions, Vol. 3 is heavy on rootsy folk-rockers and indie bands, with a notable absence of hip-hop. But if the roster could’ve been more comprehensive, the album doesn’t lack for passion, joy, and listenability.

Beatles covers are tricky, since the original songs are both extremely well known and well played—it’s very hard to top John, Paul, George, and Ringo at their own game. Which is not to say that bands shouldn’t try, but it’s risky, and the most faithful covers on Vol. 3 don’t avoid the pitfalls. Pop-punkers Motion City Soundtrack deserve credit for recreating the gentle beauty of George Harrison’s “Here Comes The Sun,” but they don’t put a lot of their own stamp on it—which makes the cover pointless, because Harrison’s version isn’t exactly hard to find. The key to a great cover song is not to hit the target dead-center—that’s for tribute bands—but to make it different. One way to do that is to deliberately wrench an over-familiar song out of its original context, as Solid Gold does on a marvelously reworked version of Harrison’s “Love You To,” translating earthy, sitar-drenched psychedelia into its own icily sophisticated, synth-heavy milieu.

The rest of Vol. 3’s best songs take a simpler approach, choosing songs from the Beatles’ incredibly broad catalog that fit each band’s individual personality but allow for a little wiggle room. Cloud Cult’s version of “Help!” forefronts the pleading in John Lennon’s lyrics, highlighting Craig Minowa’s great gift of capturing emotional vulnerability in his music. Shoegaze/noise duo Red Pens find a perfect match in “Helter Skelter,” giving guitarist/vocalist Howard Hamilton a great opportunity to scream and shred. Duluth bluesman Charlie Parr’s old-school authenticity is a breath of fresh air on Paul McCartney’s “Rocky Raccoon,” and blues-punkers The 4onthefloor deliver a stomping version of “Why Don’t We Do It In The Road?” that roars with caveman-like lustiness—which is really the only sane way to approach that particular song.

Minnesota Beatle Project Vol. 3 shares its official CD-release show with Minnesota’s other great Beatle-related tradition, Curtiss A’s annual Dec. 8 John Lennon tribute at First Avenue. Bands performing include White Light Riot, Dark Dark Dark And Her Choir, and Me And My Arrow.

Originally published Dec. 5 on Read the complete article.

2005: The Year In Music (Loon State Edition)

As someone who’s lived almost all of his life in the Twin Cities, I’ve always been a big fan of Minnesota’s music scene, and one of the pleasures of being The A.V. Club’s Twin Cities editor is that I get to hear so much local music. As a sidebar to our national 2005: The Year In Music list, here’s my take on the best discs made by or (in one case) about Minnesotans this year.

1) Low, The Great Destroyer: Low’s musical identity is so closely tied to melancholy, introspective stillness that turning up the volume would seem to wreck what’s appealing about the band in the first place, but on The Great Destroyer, Duluth’s finest export after taconite pellets cranked up the fuzzbox and the amps without sacrificing a thing. Instead, the increased intensity—ominously rumbling keyboards under “Monkey,” a loud, distorted riff powering “Everybody’s Song”—lends Destroyer an epic quality that works hand in hand with the intimacy at the heart of a Low song.

Originally published Dec. 16, 2005 on Read the complete article.

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