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It is often said of Kurt Cobain, the late Nirvana singer, that he wasn’t half as good a musician in life as he became after he died. Much the same could now be said for Mark Knopfler who, while not dead, has suffered a fate far more damaging to a musician’s spirit: censorship.

Knopfler, whose popularity peaked at the dawn of MTV era as frontman of rock band Dire Straits, has seen his previously unheralded lyrical ability upgraded in some quarters to that of a master satirist in light of a Canadian Broadcast Standards Council (CBSC) ruling on his band’s 1985 hit ‘Money for Nothing. The CBSC, the Canuck equivalent of the United States’ FCC, informed the nation’s radio stations that in future broadcasting the unedited recording of the track, which features repeated use of an offensive term aimed at homosexuals, would be considered a violation of the its Code of Ethics. In short: don’t play it.

The prohibition came about in response to a complaint from a member of the public – a 21-year-old gay woman from Newfoundland – who heard the full unedited version broadcast on regional classic rock station CHOZ-FM. The song contains the word “faggot” three times in quick succession, spoken from the perspective of a character voiced by Knopfler. The track was heavily criticised at the time of its release for vague implications of racism and sexism, though the CBSC’s edict relates only to the actual wording of the song.

The issue quickly gained…

Anybody with an ear for this kind of thing knows the Live Lounge, BBC Radio 1 feature originally presented by Jo Whiley, and now by the lovely Fearne Cotton.

Live Lounge, on which artists are invited to perform an original alongside a cover of their choice, is renowned for its tendency to throw up interesting and unexpected takes on well-known tracks (Arctic Monkeys doing Amy Winehouse’s ‘You Know I’m No Good,’ Robyn taking on Alicia Keys’ ‘Sleeping with a Broken Heart’). Being the BBC, it’s all lovingly archived, bizarrely frequent recurrence of N-Dubz and all.

Hawaiian singer-songwriter Bruno Mars is the latest to grace the BBC studios, and his debut performance is everything a cover version should be: beautifully arranged, personalised and performed in the light-hearted manner in which it was intended. He even throws in a couple of lines from the Beach Boys’ similarly-titled ‘California Girls’ and a clever take on Stevie Wonder’s ‘Isn’t She Lovely?’

I’m not sure how much I can actually say about this.

I mean, the first time I watched I was sure – I was convinced – that 1:10 was going to the moment I remember for the rest of my life. But then I saw 2:03 and, honestly, Oh my fucking God. And I mean that literally.

Any lingering fears that Patrick Stump’s second chin had imbued him, Samson-like, with his precocious musical talent have thus far proved unfounded – and a good thing, too, because the weight appears to be staying off and the erstwhile Fall Out Boy frontman has a solo career to launch.

As a prelude to the release of his first album on his lonesome, Soul Punk, in February Stump put together a fairly impressive medley of Grammy-nominated tracks, performed a capella with the man himself providing back-up vocals. Impressively, it’s all done on camera, so we quite literally get to see Stumpy playing with himself – he performs a fluid mash of Jay-Z and Alicia Keys’ ‘Empire State of Mind,’ Eminem and Rihanna’s ‘Love the Way You Lie,’ Lady Antebellum’s ‘Need You Now,’ B.o.B. and Bruno Mars’ ‘Nothin’ on You’ and Cee-Lo’s ‘Fuck You’ (mercifully uncensored).

It’s interesting to note that Stump’s studio looks more like an oversized emptied closet than a state-of-the-art recording space, though perhaps that’s fitting given his rather unfortunate choice of clothing.

Here at Sputnikmusic we have an unwritten editorial rule not to get involved in politics (at least as much that’s enforceable on a site staffed mainly by college-age pinkos) so I’m going to more or less throw this out without making reference to left or right, conservative or liberal.

Hell, I’m not even American – I couldn’t really give a shit what Congress does so long as it doesn’t show up on my doorstep.

However, I find something profoundly odd in ‘The Sarah Palin Battle Hymn,’ and it’s more than what musicologists often refer to “just being self-evidently dreadful.” It’s the myopic adulation of a popular political figure – in this case the lovely Ms. Palin – and her elevation to almost prophet-like status in its lyrics. This is made implicit by the choice of music: it’s a countried-up variation on ‘Battle Hymn of the Republic‘ (often known as ‘Glory, Glory Hallelujah), a Messianic patriot song from the American Civil War, now popularly used in religious services as well as Presidential inaugurations.

It would be easy to view ‘The Sarah Palin Battle Hymn’ as the work of a couple of mad oldies in a church somewhere, but it raises the wider point of how music is often used to serve a particular party-political agenda, and whether this is really something that we want to see more of. Many were similarly uncomfortable when, prior to the 2008 Presidential election, will.i.am and a cast of left-leaning musicians put together ‘Yes We…

I’m not somebody who’s prone to hyperbole, so I’ll say this in my own typically understated manner: this is the best thing ever to happen to me in my life.

On January 27, Ian Maleney’s Quarter Inch Collective will release Quompilation #1, a download/cassette-only compilation of 13 Irish acts covering their favourite songs from 2009 in their own inimitable styles. The compilation features the diverse line-up of Cloud Castle LakeFlokGinolaHipster YouthKid KarateMarket Force,No Monster ClubPatrick KelleherRhino MagicSacred AnimalsSpiesSquareheadand We Are Losers, although the exact tracklist is being kept firmly under wraps.

Luckily, we’ve been supplied with a couple of advanced screenings from the tape, and today saw Dublin scuzz-pop outfit Squarehead premiere their cover of labelmates Adebisi Shank’s ‘(-_-)’  (in single quotes that almost looks like Napster propaganda.) It’s not just a straight cover though: the trio have added a sun-kissed vocal melody so that we can all now sing along to the tune without looking as demented as I usually do.

Squarehead – (-_-) (Adebisi Shank Cover) by Quarter Inch Collective

(Photo by Loreana Rushe, modified by Nialler9)

It’s with a heavy heart and jazz hands that we bid farewell today to two of our longest-serving staff members.

Channing Freeman and Nick Greer have given a lot to the site in their time here – Nick being one of the few to remain from the site’s launch – and we thank them for everything. They’ll still be back from time to time to contribute reviews and blogs, but for all intents and purposes they can now be considered Professors Emeritus of Sputnik Univ… sorry, that’s way too cheesy. They gone, basically.

Vicious Social Darwinists that we are, though, we’ve wasted little time in giving birth to a new litter of contributor-level and staff babies. We decided to break with convention on this occasion and actively began to advertise the position outside the existing community. The result was that we received over double the number of applications as we have in previous rounds of promotions.

Overwhelmed by the quality of applications put forward, we’ve decided to go ahead and bring in four new contributors (on top of the two added before Christmas) and five new staff members -three from the existing contributor pool and two who impressed us so much we decided to take a leap of faith and grandfather them in at the highest level.

We’d like to thank everybody who applied for both staff and contributor positions. We were pleasantly surprised at the consistently high standard of the applications and many of you can consider yourselves…

Yeah, that Hanks.

Chet Hanks, son of Oscar-winning actor Tom, is the latest celebrity offspring to try his hand at becoming a rapper. Hanks, rapping under the name Chet Haze, wisely sticks to the subjects he knows best. Not quite his cameo appearance in the recent Indiana Jones movie or the dastardly butler forgetting to fold his socks, but as a student at the somewhat prestigious Northwestern University in Chicago he’s clearly keen to show off his school spirit.

Haze’s debut release, ’White and Purple (Northwestern Remix),’ is a reworking of Wiz Khalifa’s 2010 hit ‘Black and Yellow‘ – white and purple being the school’s colours. It’s a more or less straight re-working of the original, except with lyrics tailored to reflect the life of a rich kid living away from home for the first time. Think a clubbier Asher Roth without the accidental racism and you’re more or less there.

Us? We just can’t wait for the remix of ‘This Halloween is Crazy.’

To mark the death of Scottish singer-songwriter Gerry Rafferty, acknowledged here on Tuesday, Dave Grohl and the Foo Fighters dug out an old cover of the late great’s biggest hit, ‘Baker Street.’

The Foos’ cover of ‘Baker Street’ originally appeared way back in 1998 as a b-side to their ‘My Hero’ single (this being back in the days when physical singles actually existed, although most were on CD by then, thus rendering the term ‘b-side’ technically obsolete).

Baker Street by Foo Fighters

Sometimes I write long, boring paragraphs to go with videos. This isn’t one of those times.

Alternative link for those behind the Iron Curtain.

Scottish singer-songwriter Gerry Rafferty died on Tuesday following a long illness. He was 63.

Rafferty enjoyed moderate success in the early ’70s with Stealers Wheel, landing a lone hit single with the Dylan parody ‘Stuck in the Middle’ before breaking up in 1975. ‘Stuck in the Middle’ was given the new lease of life in 1992 when director Quentin Tarentino chose it to score the iconic torture scene in Reservoir Dogs.

After Stealers Wheel broke up, Rafferty resumed his burgeoning solo career and, in 1978, released his best-known work, City to City. The album’s success was fueled by its lead single, ‘Baker Street,’ whose burning saxophone hook has been credited with the “Baker Street phenomenon,” an explicable ursurge in saxophone sales across the UK in the late ’70s.

Rafferty never recreated the success of ‘Baker Street,’ in part an effect of his shyness and unwillingness to perform live, but he periodically released albums right up until the turn of the millennium.

It’s hard not to have a grudging respect for Jimmy Kimmel.

Not really funny enough to draw in Conan’s fans and not polished enough to draw in Leno’s golden oldies crowd, he just sort of swims along in the half-life that is ABC’s night-time schedule. He has that sort of look about him, as if he grew upwith the dream of becoming a talk show host and stoically accepted the deserved beatings that came with that dream. But he also has the look of a grizzled former idealist, of a man who’d worshiped a certain Italian-American pocket-plunger before finding out he was a cunt.

Kimmel is good, not great, but occasionally he and his team come up with some genuine gold: think ‘I’m Fucking Matt Damon’ or the completely undisguised loathing he exhibited for Leno during the Conangate fiasco. This Josh Groban sketch falls into that category. The only really disappointing aspect is the fact that we won’t shortly be able to buy the advertised 752-song opus inspired by the great man’s tweets.

EPs & Honorable Mentions | 50-31 | 30-11 | 10-1

30. Letlive – Fake History

[Myspace] // [Review]

As 2010 grilled our patience for new Glassjaw material from crispy to charred, we got a record from California’s Letlive that was arguably just as good as anything the former ever released. Fake History might not have Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Silence’s cathartic, slightly uncomfortable angst or Worship and Tribute’s deranged perfection, but what Letlive ape from their most obvious influence they amplify, polish, and release with more honesty and heart than Daryl Palumbo’s cryptic lyrics and ironic vocal style could ever allow. Letlive don’t shy away from cheese – lead singer Jason Butler’s clean vocals have more than a hint of Claudio Sanchez – but they’re not winking as they indulge in it. Fake History oozes passion, Letlive selling rage as though they are under the impression that they’re the last angry band out there. And though there’s not much density to the album, there doesn’t need to be. Letlive remind us that sometimes you don’t have to give an album a great deal of thought for it to be all sorts of awesome. - Adam D.

29. Daniel Bjarnason – Processions

[Myspace] // [Review]

Modern classical composers live in a strange

Do you love to write? Are you passionate about music? If so, you might just be the person or thing that we’ve been looking for.

We’re in the hunt for fresh and dedicated members to join our ranks at staff and contributor level. We don’t care much for degrees around here, but a pre-requisite for any position is that the candidate has the ability to write independently to a consistently high standard.

Experience in reviewing live performances and interviewing musicians is preferred but not essential at this point. More important is that the candidate has the ability to interpret music and the world around them in an interesting and articulate manner.

Successful applicants will be required to:

  • Review new album releases.
  • Review gigs.
  • Interview artists.
  • Contribute news stories.
  • Contribute to the Staff Blog.
  • Work as part of a team to formulate new feature ideas.

To apply for the position:

  • Register an account on Sputnikmusic and build a portfolio of at least 3 full-length reviews (typically 3-5 paragraphs).
  • In 1-2 paragraphs, tell us a little bit about yourself and why you think you’d be a good fit for our staff or contributor teams.
  • Give details of your relevant writing experience, whether at Sputnik or elsewhere, with links to 3-5 pieces of your strongest work.

Applications may be submitted on site via this link, or by email to Sputnikreviews@gmail.com.

The deadline for applications is Monday, January 3 at close of business.

I had a plan to close out this series’ final episode with an epic epilogue but whatdafuck it’s Christmas, and to celebrate here is the undisputed greatest Christmas song of all time.

Check back next year for all twelve songs in a slightly different order.

Merry Christmas everybody – enjoy it.

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