I had no idea this project was coming my way. But holy shit I am glad it did. I had asked The Editor to send me some music to write about. She responded by sending me all the information about The Muslims cover song contest and asked me to do in-the-moment reactionary writing to each of the songs submitted.
I need to make it very clear: I think The Muslims are incredible. The first time I listened to them, I was wowed by their originality. With razors edge delivery of sound and radical lyrical content, they make me believe people still like it hard!
Listening to new music makes me happy. Having opportunities to listen to bands I have never heard of playing covers of a band I love is a gift.
Covers are difficult. When you cover a song, you put yourself and your band in front of a firing squad of armchair critics. I am not in an armchair. I am an old fan of The Muslims looking to be a new fan of new bands.
Pro-Bitch sent a video that looks like they hiked with their gear into a wilderness cabin, plugged in a worklight and got down to business. I love it.
Their cover of “ISLAMARADO” begins with a confession: “We tried to learn ‘ISLAMARADO,’ but it was hard for us.” Well, I hope pushing through the learning curve was rewarding for Pro-Bitch, because they kill it.
The original is hard, staccato in your face, a “fuck off I did it” vibe. The Pro-Bitch version is softer in delivery, but with the vocals sitting way up front. It has an edge and an exposure to the lyrics that still convey The Muslims message loudly and clearly, reminding us that we need to listen, we need to act.
sister,brother’s cover brings to mind the feeling of wandering around a campus of storage units, trying to find out where the music is coming from. It’s faint, the vocals distant, lurking. The music, a guitar tuned just enough to be enjoyable and offsetting. The whole mix seems to create a barrier and an invitation. Find us, find the sound, find out what your missing. Around 1:20 into the song, the beats amplify, you’re closer and then…it’s over! Shit. Play it again.
The Muslims’ version shares similar dynamics, but the difference being the original is upon you like a rabid dog, a punch to the head at the start. No need to look for where the sound is coming from, the strings of the guitar seem like metal cables waiting to be cut and released.
Bruce Stevens, “There Their They’re”
Bruce Stevens adds almost 2 minutes to this song with the addition of a sound byte at the start. Fantastic addition. The speaking (interview) at the beginning is important and begs to be heard over the sounds in the background that threatens to swallow the words in one bite. I listened to just the beginning several times to catch everything being said.
The Muslims delivery of this, from the first chord, makes me want to start getting my knees high and circling up for a good old hardcore pit on the dance floor.
Emily Musolino, “Fuck the Cistem”
WHOAA! I am glad I can see the accompanying video of Emily playing all the parts. Inside a cloud of smoke, she blows this cover up. Emily pushes out a very cool 50’s, soulful vocal delivery, charmingly disarming, for sure.
The way Emily spits out the lyrics is like sitting with a friend who is pissed off and unloading the truth.
The instrumentation is tight as hell, which I know can be incredibly difficult when playing all the instruments, synching it all up, and maintaining a level of emotion that delivers a wallop.
The Muslims’ original version of this is quite similar as far as instrumentation. Their vocals sit back a little in the mix, rounder, less staccato punch at the end of each line.
The Royal Burgundy, “Payday”
Imagine Tom Waits letting it all hang out: delivered with gruff voice that sounds like it was honed by a bottle of whiskey and an ashtray full of smokes. Delicious!
I really enjoy some of the lo-fi sounds. If you know Daniel Johnson’s work you will hear it in The Royal Burgundy cover.
The Royal Burgundy slows this song down. The sludgy, Melvins-like approach enhances the raw honesty of the lyrics. Clarity shines through the ripped vocal chords of the singer.
The Royal Burgundy deliver a perfectly packaged cover staying true to the emotions while lending a different voice and vibe.
The Muslims’ version of “Payday” has such a true punk delivery that it seems to pay homage to early-to-mid eighties punk. In a way, paying homage is like a cover, hard to do right, risky, with either punishment or reward. The Muslims go for reward.
The Muskids, “Muslims at the Mall”
I am so glad this submission came in. These rockers bring the true feel and flavor of punk to the forefront of my mind. Say hello, hit the strings and keys and go for it.
The Muskids look like and sound like veterans. They bring a bit of the rainbow unicorn vibe. Well done.
The Muslims’ version is a quick build, the wick lit on a stick of dynamite, then, AT THE MALL!
Both versions make me smile.
I am glad that I do not have to make the decision about this contest. Every person and band involved brought something great to the songs.
Thanks to all the bands that submitted. I enjoyed it all and will be coming to see you play soon. Who knows, we might even play a show together!
Editor’s Note: On December 14th, The Muslims announced the winners of this contest. That information can be found on their website. I wanted to take a moment to say we at Durham Beat were also inspired by this contest. We are grateful for the creative wave it brought to so many local artists, ourselves included. It’s fucking disgusting and we love you. See you at The Pinhook in January.
Featured image is an original Durham Beat photograph by contributor Larry Jones, Jr.