Banana Nutrament

ESG Covers

Today inveterate comment troll and all around expert on all matters Detroit, Gari of Gumbyfresh weighs in with myself on some intriguing covers of classics from the lovely ladies of 99 Records:

Dirtbombs - My Love For You
**Buy it from Amazon**

Gari: I am very honored that you have asked me to comment on a Detroit Scuzz cut for your multimedia dog and pony show. I must confess that when I listened to this I was prepared to be dismissive. I had thought that I might have been called upon to review their version of Johnnie Bristol's "Do You See My Love (For You Growing)", which appeared on Ultraglide In Black. It would have been very simple for me to rhapsodise about that song, and maybe tell you about the erotic memories that have become attached to it. In fact, I had built up a frenzy of righteous anger by the time I got round to listening to it, and became quite agitato when I heard the sounds of the band hanging about before the song started. This is a trademark Dirtbombs move, and while you cannot tell what they are saying (they are quite possibly condemning the Von Bondies, which is a time-honored Detroit pastime), you are not expecting a seismic shift in the sands of Scuzz.

Miguel: I was quite surprised to see them do this cover too. I have always found their over the top appropriation of R&B tropes questionable. Then I found out today that there is a black guy in the band, so I guess they are only 80% as disingenuous as I thought they were.

Gari: Quite, an awkward approach to racial politics is another Detroit pastime. The Dirtbombs are usually rather magisterial, but this song is rather scrappy, rather like this heroically ugly dog that Katie Couric interviewed on the Today Show the other morning. It is not loveable as such, and is barely fully formed, but there is something transfixing about it. I would completely exhaust my thin supply of musical terms by trying to describe the effect of the two guitars moving in separate registers. One of the guitars operates in the normal Dirtbombs register, and chugs along rather conventionally. But the other guitar is wheedling around in the stratosphere, and presses the buttons of Saturday morning Westerns, and, for reasons I cannot vocalise, an Orbital tune called "Monday".

Miguel: It works nicely, it translates well into a rocked out version. Covered this way it almost sounds like a forgotten Motown cut from the '60s.

Gari: Covering obscure Motown cuts is a favourite Dirtbombs pastime. I do believe you are right. Maybe they could carve out a niche making all songs sound like obscure Motown covers, much like those revolting swing musicians. But I must confess that this cut lacks purpose and would likely not find a home in one of their awesomely disciplined live sets. It is maybe like that ugly dog looking for the foofy poodle that is a chorus, no?

Liars - Tumbling Walls Buried Me In The Debris With ESG
**Buy it from Insound**

Gari: Halfway through this exercise you have reminded me of the whole ESG connection so I will try and be more contextual. I can see why these lovely ladies from the South Bronx have been sampled so much. They have so many delightful phrases and cute little hooks. But no choruses, which narrows the congregation to instrumentalabalistscratchtarts and post-punk groupies. F***ers that like to pretend Wire never existed, in other words.

Miguel: Do The Liars fall in that latter category? Or is it Liars? Haven't heard much from them lately. I don't know why they fired their rhythm section, which was their greatest appeal to me. Then they made that awful album about witches. I remember hearing that after their debut album came out several people told the band it reminded them of This Heat, which they had never heard of. I'm guessing that following up on that tip, and reacting against what they heard, played no small part in the drastic changes they undertook. At least they credited ESG here on this track, and even turn it into something half new.

Gari: I think it is instructive to look at another cultural artefact from 1979 - the Warriors. They were unable to Dig It as they had been asked, on account of the asker getting shot, and had to flee the Bronx. Now did they bugger off to the soothing sounds of these little tykes or to a souped up R&B soundtrack that leant heavily on Martha & The Vandellas and Joe Walsh? In fact, maybe they weren't fleeing a ninja-shades gang at all, but a hideous screeching Malcolm McClaren figure brandishing a jukebox playing this. Unlikely, I'll grant you, but I cannot help but feeling that these ESG people were some kind of cosmic early payback for the 1970s decline of the Bushwick brewing industry. The Liars tune is a lot more deftly rendered than the Dirtbombs, and becomes so busy and chorusless, and so dependent on a spooky piano in the background that one is reminded of NIN's grumpier and more aimless moments. Top yelping, mind.

Miguel: Yes, yelping is something The Liars excel at. I hope they still put on a great live show. I saw them open for Sonic Youth some years back and they killed. Between sets Angus Andrews raided his own merch table to shove handfuls of free product into the hands of everyone standing nearby. Nice guy. I hope he is doing well out in the woods all by his lonesome.

Here is a little taste of the real deal, for anyone interested:

ESG -You (Live at Hurrah, NYC 12-3-80)