Friday, December 20, 2013

FDF Volume 3 Issue 327 - Various Artists - Songs in the Key of X

Album – Songs in the Key of X
Artist – Various Artists
Key Players – Nick Cave, Foo Fighters, REM, Soul Coughing etc...

Produced By – David Was and Chris Carter

Release Date – March 19, 1996
Overview - This was a compilation released for the TV Series “The X-Files”. The collection is of songs that were either in the show, or shared “thematic elements” with it. It would sell well and peak at 47 on the Billboard top 200. The reviews were strong and the Rob Zombie track would be nominated for a grammy award.

FDF Comments (aka the songs) – The 15 track collection opens as it should* with the “X-Files Theme” done by Mark Snow. It is perhaps one of the most well known theme songs for a television series.  “Unmarked Helicopters” is done by Soul Coughing and has the trademark vocal delivery of a monotone awash with the cymbal smashes and swirling guitars. It has a dark feel to it, making it a perfect track for the collection. “On the Outside” by Sheryl Crow is a darker song than expected from a singer known for catchy pop songs. For me personally it is not a solid track, I guess I too have her pigeonholed into that genre. "Down in the Park"  is the Foo Fighters covering Gary Numan. This had some moderate radio play and it is pretty true to the original with its driving drum line, this is the perfect song for the Foo Fighters to take on. “Star Me Kitten” by R.E.M had appeared on the bands 1992 album “Automatic for the People” but this version is different as they collaborated with William S. Burroughs. Burroughs speaks the lyrics. For the soundtrack this works, but I'll take the original. “Red Right Hand” by Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds starts off sort of playful with a chopping keyboard line, then his deep baritone takes over. Cave has that mysterious sound and way about him that, for lack of a better term, adds to the creepiness of the record. This track was used in an episode and, as expected it was probably perfectly suited for the moment. Dark keyboard lines with clanging bells to accent the anxiety of the viewers perhaps? Filter offers up the track “Thanks Bro” and it starts with an acoustic guitar and Richard Patrick singing. A string section fills out some of the bottom and it slowly builds, but never seems to get overly interesting. Frank Black's track “Man of Steel”has a twanging guitar and bluesy drum beat that slowly builds and the intro goes on longer than you'd expect. By the time Black steps up to sing in his trademark howl the music has you locked and loaded, you are waiting for this. The track has a big sound without being overly loud/heavy. For heaviness look no further than The Meat Puppets as the run through their track “Unexplained”. Much like Black, the guitars are big but they never overwhelm the vocals. It has a bluesy/pop rock feel to it, and the guitars really stand out with the lower buzz to the ringing solo that seems to run throughout. With the Danzig track “Deep” you get what you'd expect. A quiet start, a big booming chorus, then rinse/lather/repeat. The soundtrack goes in a different direction with "Frenzy"   by Screamin' Jay Hawkins. Mixed in to the record this is an odd track that would cause listeners to pause and give it some attention. A curious addition, but fitting at the same time. “My Dark Life” is but Elvis Costello and Brian Eno. Listeners familiar with Costello will notice his voice right away, the quaking vibrato and all. It is a pretty song, but seems to just be “there”. Nothing that pulls you in, or reach for the skip button. "Hands of Death (Burn Baby Burn")   by Rob Zombie with Alice Cooper is just what we need as the album starts to come to a close. Zombie has always found that good groove and done what he can to lock that in and cover it like gravy with buzzy guitars and a cool effect on his vocals. Mission accomplished. The trippy “If You Never Say Goodbye”by P.M. Dawn hearkens to 60's psychedelia for a mind swirling listen.  The album concludes with a remix of the theme song done by P.M. Dawn

* if you have the cd put it in the player and press play on track 1. Hit the FF button backwards (so scan back). There are hidden tracks called “pre gaps”. If you go back nine minutes the tracks “Time Jesum Transeuntum Et Non Riverentum” as well as a cover of the theme song, both by Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds.

FDF Overall Take – This is a unique collection for sure. Really something for most rock music fans back then as well as now. The different versions and collaborations make the collection unique and if you can track it down for cheap money it is an interesting listen.

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