Prepare To Meet Your Re-Makers
When you do a cover version of someone else's song you have to treat it like you are sleeping with someone else's wife. You don't want to be too obvious, you don't want to get involved with something old and tired that has a lot of baggage and do it so well that just once isn't enough. What happens most of the time in this situation is that it ends up being forgotten about because the parties involved are too embarrassed that it ever occurred. Covering a classic song? That takes balls, so in order to pull that off without getting pistol whipped in a rage of cathartic jealously by the guy whose life you ruined with this shit, you have to go into this with the expectation that you are going to own it when you are done with it by doing something unique. The Inmates weren't home wreckers, they were more like your mom's new boyfriend-they did the same stuff your dad did but much cooler because he actually wants you to like him.
The Inmates were lumped in with Punk and New Wave like everything else from 1979 that didn't have a 6 minute guitar solo and an album sleeve inspired by a gram of psilocybin laced mushrooms. What they really were was a bad-ass bar band who were not looking to make something new, but to dress up mid '60s rock with leather and a bottle of mid shelf bourbon creating a sound that reached out from your speakers and grabbed you by the throat long enough to shake the wuss out of anyone within earshot. "Dirty Water" was a severe and unapologetic overhaul of a dated top 20 hit, and they nailed it. The difference in the sound between The Standells original recording of "Dirty Water" and The Inmates remake of the song was the quality of the water they were singing about. The initial entry from 1966 was menacing by glorifying the polluted riverbanks of Boston's Charles River and hiding references to The Boston Strangler in it's murky reverb. By the time 1979 rolled around, the rivers of the world's large industrial cities were toxic fire spawning death flows, so any redoing of this song needed to reflect the current state of affairs by being as hard as the edge of a busted beer mug and having a badge of honor quality, therefore, avoiding sounding like you are the opening band at a No Nukes concert held in the parking lot of a stereo store. The band stamped these badges, town by town, making city specific versions (re-recording an entire stanza-not just dropping the location in an empty space in the song) with the name of the local river pressed on promotional 12" vinyl for local radio play. So, not only did Baltimore, Houston, Cleveland and the rest of industrial America get an "oh wow!" version of the song, they were guaranteed a shout along showstopper when the band played a local venue.
Listen to "Dirty Water"
David Lindley and El-Rayo X
The dream date with David Lindley begins and ends much differently than the bar crawl we just had with The Inmates. Lindley arrives promptly in a second hand pickup with flowers picked minutes ago from your neighbor's garden. Dressed in eclectic thrift shop gear, he whisks you away for an ironically original evening of leftovers and reruns. This is the genius of David Lindley and El-Rayo X, crafting magic out of previously recorded material, chosen with deft to suit his voice, style and playing ability.
Lindley is a crack musician and a master of every single string instrument, however he and his band refuse to be caught in the trappings of virtuoso pretension, instead focusing on creating an entertaining aural ruckus, peppered with layers of different instruments. Every album the band released beginning in the early 1980's (After Lindey left Jackson Browne's band) was a new batch of hairy buffalo effortlessly fusing unrelated genres of music. By the time the band released it's final record "Very Greasy" the block party had moved to the Caribbean.
Leading off side 2 is an adventurous strike at Warren Zevon's "Werewolves Of London" which in theory has all the appeal of passing a kidney stone. The ability to pull off something of this magnitude owes it's success to the listener not knowing what they are listening to until the operation is in overdrive, like being kidnapped by drunken strippers. The song holds you at boobpoint, racing, swaying and strangely hypnotized by David Lindley speaking, not singing, the lyrics that Zevon wrote and free forming a few of his own. It is the music and the band, however, that keep this from becoming a farce by balancing adept horns and a brilliant slide guitar break that ends as abruptly as 3 dollar lap dance.
Listen to "Werewolves Of London"