Mark: Second last post! This feels like the Thursday of a hell-week at work! The end is in sight!
Last week’s post about “The God That Failed” was saved by a pretty fun cover by IDLES, that just sounded like IDLES being IDLES. Hopefully this week’s OG Metallica recording fares a little better, but this is yet another track that I don’t remember in the slightest. So…
Jay: I was going to make a joke about how it feels like we’ve been listening to this record for months, and then I noticed we actually have. I like Kamasi Washington, so I’m pretty excited to see what’s been done in that version, but otherwise, I feel like we’ve fallen into a pattern: versions that are blatant career-boosters, versions that try something genre-specific that doesn’t work fully, versions where people only nominally cover the song, and versions that manage to capture the spirit of the original and use it to make something transcendent. Let’s hope we get more of the latter here.
Cherry Glazer – “My Friend of Misery”
Mark: I like some Cherry Glazer stuff! I hope this is fun.
The synth arrangement is already pretty fun! This is a bit of a departure from the Glazer stuff that I’ve heard, which skewed more in the modern indie-alt/grunge direction. This track digs into sort of a low-fi synth-pop vibe that results in one of the most… danceable tracks on the entire Blacklist collection. It’s very fun, but I imagine that this track pisses off the Metallica diehards more than most of the other Blacklist tracks.
I’m pretty into it! The synth sounds are great and the song’s nods to icy dance-pop and dumbass trap music make it obvious that the group was having fun while arranging it. The Metallica version has to sound absolutely nothing like this, right? The mid-album tracks on a Metallica record can be called a lot of things, but I don’t think any of them have ever been called “fun and dancey!”… have they?!
Jay: It’s a moody start, and I like the sounds. I really don’t dig it once the vocals kick in, though. But the drums sound cool! The loud-whispered “misery” ain’t for me. But the key change in the chorus works, and all the different parts are competent. It’s just that the intro (and bridge, which is the same) is worlds better than the rest of this synth-pop-rock thing. I really can’t even hear the chords in this track. There is definitely too much whispering on this track. The half-time breakdown was fun. Overall? Meh. It’s fine.
Grade: B (Mark), C+ (Jay)
Izia – “My Friend of Misery”
Mark: A more straightforward pop-rock version of the song so far. Some kind of fun/funny electronic flourishes at work here, but this one is played super super straight overall.
I think that the chorus has a reasonably catchy fuzzy vibe, but this isn’t really my thing. The vocals don’t have a lot of personality beyond just being a pretty capable female pop vocal.
Best part of the song by far is the instrumental bridge, which doubles down on the kitschy vintage electronic sounds and vibe, and travels up its own butthole in a very charming way. Not my fave cover, but far far far from the worst found on The Blacklist.
Jay: Again, good sounds on this one. The vocals are once again not for me, and the overall arrangement here has a distinct “cover for a video game” feeling, in the bad way. I like a lot of the individual elements, the way the guitars sound, the way they sell the key change in the chorus, but it doesn’t work for me as a whole. I’ll definitely agree with Mark that the chorus is catchy and strong, and also that the best parts of this song are the instrumental ideas off the top and during the bridge. It gets very silly.
Just like Glazer above, it’s fine.
Grade: C (Mark), C+ (Jay)
Kamasi Washington – “My Friend of Misery”
Mark: Holy fuck. From the nutso drum into to the amazing spy-jazz arrangement, the whole opening of this cover is spectacular. It settles into a smooth, vampy vocal jazz performance that works way better than it should. The cool, laid back performance isn’t really like anything I’ve heard on this vast covers collection, and it’s a real treat.
Even when this cover descends into gonzo jazz saxophone solos for most of its running time, it’s a total pleasure to listen to. I enjoy everything about this cover. The horns. The chord change-ups. The absolutely apeshit drum performance.
It’s like the Bond theme that Metallica never wrote and couldn’t have possibly performed themselves. Just stellar work.
Jay: This song starts with the biggest drum fuck-you I’ve heard in a while. I absolutely love it. This is everything I’d hoped for from a cover by Kamasi Washington.
I think I’d probably still prefer this if it were fully instrumental, and I’ll probably go looking for an instrumental version of this particular cover afterward, but the vocals work and don’t try to overshadow the arrangement. And when they do get a little wilder toward the end, they really work and still manage to share the space well.
There’s something off about the overall mix of the song, but I love so much about this. It’s loose but absurdly technical, it’s playful but emotional, it’s constrained as a cover but absolutely expansive toward the end. I could sit here and compliment every single musical performance; each player gets their moment to shine and does such a great job of it.
This is a first-class example of how to make a cover. I love it.
Metallica – “My Friend of Misery” (Remastered)
Mark: Nice bass intro! Get some, Jason!
This song is actually pretty cool. It sounded cooler before it settled into the same bass-snare groove as 75% of the rest of the album, but the melodic vibe of this track is great. I particularly like the riff in the verses, and the vocal melody in that section. The chorus is less interesting to me, but I really like the fact that it totally switches up both the drum rhythm and the key when it gets there.
The slow-building instrumental bridge is also maybe one of the most interesting strictly musical passages on the whole album. The return of the isolated bass riff, with subtly swelling lead guitar, sounds terrific. This leads into two of the most pleasing guitar solos on the album. A good showcase for King Kirk!
This song is longer than I would like and the outro should have been trimmed in favour of a tight ending following the last chorus. But a great track. Have to admit.
Jay: It is a great bass part. I wish there was a little more leaning into the two different chords in this bass phrase, either from the bass or the accompanying guitar, but it’s still cool.
Despite not much in the way of melody or chordal hooks, it’s a great chorus with an awesome vocal performance.
Love the breakdown section with the faded guitar notes. And love the instrumental section it goes into from there. This definitely feels like an album cut, but there’s a lot to dig into in terms of arrangement, extra guitars, cool parts, and spirited performances. Great track.
Next installment: “The Struggle Within” – performed by Rodrigo y Gabriela.