Friday, January 16, 2009

4. Cowboy Junkies vs. Taxpayer vs. nine inch nails

vs. vs.
"Sweet Jane"
by Cowboy Junkies
from The Trinity Session
  "When They Were Young"
by Taxpayer
from Bones & Lungs
by nine inch nails
from broken

"Sweet Jane" (1 play at, unranked): This track is from an early Cowboy Junkies album, but really it's from the Natural Born Killers soundtrack. It's in many ways the processional for Mickey and Mallory's impromptu bridge-top wedding, and I'd say it reimagines the original Velvet Underground version at least as significantly as Jeff Buckley reimagined John Cale's reimagining of Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah." Margo Timmins' voice and style bring a totally different flavor to the song than the downtown wink-and-sneer maleness of Lou Reed. That such a simple song could be so changed is one of the things I like best about music.

"When They Were Young" (10 plays, tied for #218): I discovered this band when I learned about the Boston Phoenix's music blog, a site from which I subsequently never found anything else good. The song came out a year before the Killers' "When You Were Young," and coincidentally is not dissimilar to that song's style. The difference is that Taxpayer's song is wickedly catchy, with much livelier vocals and more interesting lyrics. The band in general is pretty good, though this is by far their best song; if they'd gotten any exposure outside the northeast I suspect they'd've hit it big by now.

"wish" (4 plays, unranked): When I got into the NIN back catalog around the time I was 16 and deep into the downward spiral, this song sounded like a clear pivot point for Trent Reznor. Nothing on pretty hate machine was this full or loud or aggressive, and much of it actually sounds pretty thin compared to subsequent NIN material (maybe down to late 80's mastering style, but I don't think so). This song (and broken as a whole) came through on the Reznor's clear promise, apparently at the expense of all kinds of personal damage. It's a great metal song and a great live experience, and it's too bad that so few of the bands influenced by this NIN era seem to get how it works.

VERDICT: It's a tough call. "Sweet Jane" is too slight compared to the other two tracks. As great and historically important as "wish" is, "When They Were Young" is one of a handful of tracks that I often feel compelling to listen to, even when I'm in the middle of listening to something else, so it moves on to the next round.

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