The iJamming! Download: Headless Heroes
With music download possibilities reaching information overload crisis point, it’s not often a song stops me in its tracks in the middle of a Podcast, especially one as lengthy and as resolutely Indie as the monthly two-hour Tripwire Podcast. In fact, I was musing at the distinct mediocrity of new cover versions of the Cure’s “Fascination Street” and Kate Bush’s “Cloudbusting” on that Podcast last week – and then, right on their heels, I recognized the distinctive opening chords of the Jesus and Mary Chain’s “Just Like Honey.” Late in 1985, that was the song that convinced me that the Reid brothers offered something more than mere hype in the guise of chaos, that they could craft classic ballads just like their heroes Lou Reed or Phil Spector when they put their minds to it. I was swayed, overnight: “Just Like Honey” went on one or more of my mix-tapes of the era and, in a way, it’s been there ever since, part of the soundtrack to my life. It’s just a beautiful beautiful beautiful song and, now I think of it, it’s been crying out for a worthy cover version ever since.
The Headless Heroes’ rendition, the one I heard on the Tripwire Podcast, takes the Mary Chain’s rudimentary arrangement and dresses it up in the resplendent – but necessarily restrained – finery it’s always deserved. A gently strummed acoustic guitar announces the chords, an electric slide offers a hint of the melody, a bass announces itself with minimum fuss, and then comes a female voice for the ages – that of Nevada folkstress Alela Dianne, singing “Listen to the girl, as she takes on half the world…” And with that, the song is up and away, soaring gently across a dream-laden sky for, unlike the Mary Chain’s original, the Headless Heroes’ version is all space and light, emphasizing the lovely chord changes, clarifying the poetic lyrics. If you’ve never heard “Just Like Honey” before, you’ll surely be wondering why not; and if you have, then hopefully, like me, you’ll feel it’s been done modern-day justice.
“Just Like Honey” is one of ten cover versions the Headless Heroes have tackled on their album The Silence of Love, running the gamet of relative obscurity from Vashti Bunyan to Linda Perhacs to Jackson C. Frank, and including along the way stellar interpretations of Nick Cave’s “Nobody’s Baby Now” and Daniel Johnston’ss “True Love Will Find You In the End,” a song that has special meaning for me given that the Wilco version was the theme song for the couple whose wedding I DJ’d last year. As for the background to the Headless Heroes themselves, well there’s not much to it. Creator Eddie Bezalel says he “just wanted to make an album with great musicians and great songs.” His friend Hugo Nicolson helped collate the songs and recruit the likes of Josh Klinghoffer and Joey Waronker as musicians; Bezalel found Dianne via her MySpace page (how cute!); and David Holmes, as is his way, found his way inside the project somehow too.
The project gathered further steam upon completion. Brooklyn’s Pocketknife has remixed “Just Like Honey” (you can hear it here, though I’m not sure it bests the Headless Heroes’ original) and Mirka Duijn & Nina Spiering have produced a suitably fantastic StopMotion video (see above) for what is clearly being perceived as the album’s stand-out track. There’s also an astounding tilt shift/timelapse video by by Keith Doutit for Philamore Lincoln’s previously obscure but quite devastatingly beautiful “The North Wind Blew South.” Best yet, the entire album is available for free streaming: I’ve included it at the end of the post.
All these giveaways suggest that Bezalel, Nicolson and Dianne have made The Silence of Love for entirely altruistic reasons. (Already available in Europe, the album is only now being released in the USA.) Indeed, the album’s low download price of just $7 includes a 25% donation go to Housing Works, the New York City community-based not-for-profit organization committed to fighting AIDS and homelessness. That seems like a fair deal if ever there was one. Kudos then to all parties involved for such a wonderful project. It’s moments like these that reinforce my belief in the digital age.