I have a love/hate relationship with BBC Radio1 evening show host Zane Lowe. He often gets on my nerves because he likes to shout. A lot. I chalk this up to the fact that he has the privilege of talking to rock stars on a regular basis, and should I ever get a cushy job like that, I would probably be overexcited and shouty as well. However, I digress. It’s thanks to Lowe’s regular choosing of the “Hottest Record in the World” (at 7:30 PM GMT most evenings Monday through Thursday) that I get to hear some of the most hotly-tipped songs before their official release. And here is a prime example of his good taste – PopWreckoning favorites Friendly Fires covering Holy Ghost!‘s now classic “Hold On,” which was chosen as a “Hottest Record” for February 4.
I’ve done research in the blogosphere and heard quite a bit about the backstory of this single from interviews the BBC did last month with Friendly Fires‘s Ed Macfarlane (vocals / bass / synths). What I’ve gathered is that the two acts ran into each other last summer at the dance music festival Calvi on the Rocks in Corsica. It’s unclear which parties were inebriated but Holy Ghost!‘s Alex Frankel made the suggestion of recording covers of each other’s songs. Macfarlane, a self-admitted fanatic of Holy Ghost!‘s work, concurred. Further, Macfarlane told a BBC 6music news reporter that he spent so much time and effort remixing Phoenix‘s “Fences” that given the choice, his preference with respect to Holy Ghost! was to do “a proper reinterpretation” of one of their songs rather than simply a remix.
You may wonder, “if they talked about doing this last summer, why is it taking so long for it to be released?” Further in the folklore is that Friendly Fires, so enthused about the project, got their cover finished quickly. However, Holy Ghost!‘s recording of their track was riddled by bad luck. Word on the street is that their already recorded session tapes and vocal tracks vanished, and they suffered a hard drive meltdown. It should also be noted that there was further delay caused by the untimely death of !!!/LCD Soundsystem drummer Jerry Fuchs. (Incidentally, the “On Board” track is one of the last recordings Fuchs played on.)
If you’ve listened to Friendly Fires‘s “Paris” as many times as I have, the intro to their cover of Holy Ghost!’s “Hold on” should sound welcome as an old friend. The pronounced bass line, as well as winning cowbell and agogô – hallmarks of tracks by this XL Recordings act – make this cover memorably different than the original. The disco dancefloor vibe and the short-sounding lyrics have gone, replaced by in-your-face percussion (thanks to surely one of music’s hardest-working drummers, Jack Savidge) and sexy as hell lead vocals. Edd Gibson‘s guitar riffs three-quarters of the way in are also a totally appreciated addition.
DFA Records duo Holy Ghost! decided they wanted to put their own stamp on the Friendly Fires‘s boisterous singalong “On Board.” (You may recall hearing the original on commercials for the Wii Fit and Gran Turismo 5.) Their take features, as should be expected from them, a disco sensibility; however, it also comes complete with angelic female voices credited as “the DFA Celestial Choir,” lending a vocal richness not present in the original. The lead vocal is more intelligible as well. (Sorry Ed Mac, but if someone hadn’t told me the lyrics included “without your own defiling / you’d backwards circle right above our heads“, I never would have guessed). I also really dig the tacking-on of the catchy, repeated “Don’t stop! Don’t stop!” squarely in the middle of the track.
Because of the mutual admiration Friendly Fires and Holy Ghost! have for each other, I think it’s safe to say that should these two dance music acts ever decide to go on tour together, that would make for one hell of a bill.
The “Hold On” / “On Board” double-A-sided single will be released on 12″ vinyl and digitally on March 8 by XL Recordings. Check out the original versions of both below (Holy Ghost! don’t have a promo video for “Hold On” so only audio is available for that one.)
Friendly Fires - “On Board”
Holy Ghost! - “Hold On”
1. Friendly Fires – Hold On
2. Friendly Fires – Hold On (instrumental)
3. Holy Ghost! – On Board
4. Holy Ghost! – On Board (instrumental)
5. Holy Ghost! – On Board (dub – on download version only)
Friendly Fires: website | myspace | Friendly Fires review | Remix Monday: “Skeleton Boy” | @ Black Cat | @ Dot to Dot Festival | interview with pt. 1, pt. 2, pt. 3 | Mercury Prize Nominations Announced | New Video on MTV, To Play Jimmy Kimmel and Winter Nylon Tour, Release Expanded Version of Debut Album | @ Lollapalooza 2009 | @ le poisson rouge | @ Music Hall of Williamsburg | on Jimmy Kimmel | Remix Monday: “Paris” | Remix Monday: Phoenix’s “Fences” | NYLON Winter Music Tour Starring Friendly Fires with the xx @ Paradise Rock Club, Boston
Holy Ghost!: website | myspace | Remix Monday: Cut Copy “Hearts on Fire” | Remix Monday: Phoenix “Lisztomania”