“Echoes” Is Here!
Hooray! It’s been a long six years since “Etchy Sketchy Skies,” but we finally have A NEW ALBUM!
Okay, I’ll settle down a little and tell you about Artichoke’s new record.
“Echoes” is a collection of songs about songs, including ten stylistically warped covers. The album kicks off with “The Devil’s Song,” an earworm sung by a man afflicted by the ultimate earworm. I wrote this one up in Yellowstone a few years ago. (There’s a video on this site of my awesome cute nephew Gabriel and me singing “The Devil’s Song” in the woods.)
Track two smashes together the Kinks and Blur. I was fairly faithful to the structure of “You Really Got Me” and “Song 2”. The fun part was the transition between songs and the combined final chorus. Naturally, I went as insane as possible on the woo-hoos.
“Two Cats Watching the News” is on this site as a free playable mp3. This is because I love politics and today’s political situation so much. Just kidding.
“Imagine” was a daunting song. First I tried a few punk versions, but they did not thrill me after a few listens. I was wracking my brains for a productive angle. My breakthrough was changing the song from 4/4 to 6/8 time, after which it evolved into a mellow tune in the style of Grandaddy.
I have always loved “Take the Skinheads Bowling” for its fresh sound and spontaneous lyrics. You just know David Lowery and his wise-ass crew were having a good time. My version ended up with a few tempo ramps and gung-ho chorus vocals from Daniel Leyson (our “Bees”-era guitar player who now lives up in Davis and coaches water polo), Lydee Walsh (who you’ve seen if you’ve seen Artichoke live in the past 5 years) and my old college pal Bill Barbot (member of Jawbox and his new band Foxhall Stacks).
Just how far can you stretch a song before it changes into something else? The overplayed chestnut “Margaritaville” was a test case. A few years ago beside a campfire in the woods I tried it with all minor chords. Hilarity ensued. So for this cover my first step was to record my acoustic guitar and mournful vocals. Then I needed a lead instrument. I wondered what Paul Livingstone might come up with on his sitar? His playing on “The Market of Farms” was great, and this might be another good song niche for him. When I took my tracks for “Margaritaville” up to Paul’s Altadena studio, he claimed not to have ever heard the original song! Whether he had or not, he proceeded to blow my mind. That’s what real musicians can do. Speaking of real musicians, I then enlisted Andy Creighton (the World Record) on bass, and, uh, BOOM.
For most of the nineties I drove around New England and Pennsylvania listening to Tom Waits, Robyn Hitchcock, PJ Harvey and such and photographing inside abandoned houses. So when my friend Lia Carpenter suggested I cover “I Don’t Wanna Grow Up” by Tom Waits, I jumped on it. That “bong” sound is a big rusty gas can being hit with a mallet. I am grateful to my old neighbor Jim for giving me that object. Jim died this year, and I miss him.
Robyn Hitchcock doesn’t often play “Balloon Man” at his live shows, but it’s a funny little song. While listening to it the first time way back in college, my future wife and I simultaneously said “By the way, my dad’s name is Bruce.”
“Blitzkrieg Bop” was the Ramones’ first hit. It’s a perfect song. Thanks to Lydee Walsh for vocals.
The Artichoke original “Hot Fools” is a menagerie of ducks, peacocks and hipsters.
The father of country music Hank Williams’ very last recorded song is funny as hell. “I’ll Never Get Out of This World Alive” is true for most of us, with the possible exception of a few astronauts. And even they must return for air, more convenient urination, and perhaps earth girls.
“Folsom Prison Blues” is another of those perfect songs. It doesn’t need a chorus because the lyrics are solid hook. In fact, nobody really needs another cover of this song. But I paid the estate of Johnny Cash and did it anyway. For my version, I used a shoegaze guitar sound and some anticipatory delay on my vocal to give it a distant psychedelic flavor.
Thanks to Lydee Walsh for vocals on “How Mick Jagger Got His Lips.” As I’m sure you can guess, it’s a true story.
I don’t know if I still like my version of “What a Little Moonlight Can Do.” After a while spent working on a tune it’s sometimes hard to know. Anyway, I highly recommend Billie Holiday’s autobiography “Lady Sings the Blues.”
Thanks for listening. Keep in touch!
Timothy / Artichoke
Highland Park, January 2018