Whaley, Janice / Complete Smiths Project, The
Album: Complete Smiths Project, The   Collection:General
Artist:Whaley, Janice   Added:Sep 2011

A-File Activity
Add Date: 2011-09-25 Pull Date: 2011-11-27
Week Ending: Nov 6 Oct 30 Oct 23 Oct 16 Oct 9 Oct 2
Airplays: 1 2 1 1 2 2

Recent Airplay
1. Nov 04, 2011: UpDownUnderStairs
Money Changes Everything
4. Oct 20, 2011: The Songsmith Show
Stop Me If You Think You've Heard This One Before
2. Oct 28, 2011: UpDownUnderStairs
Girl Afraid
5. Oct 13, 2011: The Songsmith Show
Rusholme Ruffians
3. Oct 27, 2011: The Songsmith Show
Stop Me If You Think You've Heard This One Before
6. Oct 08, 2011: Music Casserole
Golden Lights

Album Review
Trent Kay
Reviewed 2011-09-21
The Smiths. The complete catalog. One-woman covers. Layered acapella.

Let's be honest: This is the best idea I've heard all year. I know! I'll record every track The Smiths ever wrote... completely acapella! And I'll do it all awwone, on my dinky Mac, all in one year! While I raise my kids and commute to my crappy day job! Why the hell not! Our irreverent hero is Janice Whaley -- local, obviously, from San Jose via San Francisco -- and she did this project for kicks... like, in her spare time. There's 30-50 vocal tracks on any given cut, and minus drop-shift for bass lines, no computer magic whatsoever. I can't even imagine how much time and drive this project took, but here it is, and it kicks serious ass.

It's funny to look back and realise The Smiths... didn't write all that many songs. 71, to be precise. Four studio records and a pair of comps from their formation in 1982 to their breakup in 1987, and still they've hit more people harder than their same-era rivals (cough The Cure). Say what you want about Morrissey, he knew how to reach into your heart and squeeze. Without The Smiths there would be no indie, period. These boys wrote the book. I blame Chbosky for poisoning my generation. What's your excuse?

I've starred the standouts, but be warned that most track-by-tracks reference the originals (or at least assume you know the song). For full disclosure, I'm partial to Strangeways and Meat Is Murder (okay, and Louder Than Bombs), so your picks may differ. The Smiths didn't write filler, so really any song is a good song... but not all the tracks quite make the acapella transistion. Stick to the stars on this one.

Note: Tracks grouped by album. A (+) indicates a non-album or 'floater' track... at least according to my US versions.


** yeah, obviously:
"barbarism begins at home" (!!) [CD 3]
"a rush and a push and the land is ours" [CD 6]
"some girls are bigger than others" [CD 4]
"stop me if you think you've heard this one before" [CD 6]
"sweet and tender hooligan" [CD 5]

** surprises:
"girl afraid" [CD 2]
"london" [CD 5]
"money changes everything" (!!) [CD 5]
"these things take time" [CD 2]
"unhappy birthday" [CD 6]

CD 1: The Smiths (studio)
*1. (5:51) "reel around the fountain" slow, choral "ooh" backings, no percussion. sounds like a somber xmas hymn.
2. (3:58) "you've got everything now" layered 'dah dah' percussion. shrill.
3. (3:20) "miserable lie" naked crystal hi-reg sound gives way to electric guitar noise and sinister vox.
4. (4:32) "the hand that rocks the cradle" lone lullaby vox over a single held note.
5. (2:46) "this charming man" the voices sort of muddy on this one, that or the original is just super crisp in comparison. no discernible percussion and too many voices.
6. (3:36) "still ill" held drone note and multiple hi-reg interlocking vox.
7. (3:16) "hand in glove" low tone vox and light 'chk's. very tempered.
8. (3:43) "what difference does it make?" "doo doo"s, light beatboxing. dynamic-pushing harmonies. mild-mannered, loose version of a pretty pissed off song.
*9. (3:39) "pretty girls make graves" the standard for fast women and reluctant boys. crystal clear melody line over cool round-robin percussion effects. less entralled with the block of voice that rounds out the chorus. no candle to the original, but worth playing.
10. (4:13) "i don't owe you anything" pretty church harmonies.
11. (5:20) "suffer little children" the infamous moors murders song. long-held 'ooh's and no percussion. nice low strings effect.

CD 2: Hatful of Hollow (comp)
*1. (2:20) "william it was really nothing" what infamy. purportedly written for billy mackenzie of the associates (who volleyed back with "stephen you're really something"). bright and full, cool rocking bass. a pretty straight, short & sweet cover of a great song.
*2. (3:54) "these things take time" sidewindy moody effects. downtempo, rich, dark, low, gloomy. not too many layers here. simple, stark and effective.
3. (2:44) "handsome devil" nice echo effects, but overall the melody and backing vox seem disjoint. no real percussion to root the track.
*4. (4:34) "heaven knows i'm miserable now" drop-shift bass and clear lone melody line over cool scattered percussion. nice gradual intro of backing effects.
5. (3:40) "this night has opened my eyes" cool popcorn percussion, chilly song.
6. (4:09) "accept yourself" clipped scratch-edits and ping-pong effects. scattered, almost digital sound. softened somewhat by harmonies in the chorus.
*7. (2:42) "girl afraid" rocking bass-heavy swing. bright and clear melody. harmonies that know just when to swell and when to back off. honestly, some of the wryest lyrics the smiths ever inked.
8. (3:03) "back to the old house" shrill wintery 'ooh's, no percussion.
9. (2:19) "please please please let me get what i want" no percussion, no strum effects. low pretty "ooh" harmonies. okay, i miss the acoustic guitar. okay, a lot.
(+) 10. (3:47) "jeane" churchy and slow to start. no percussion effects. lyric-centric, but spare.
(+) 11. (3:08) "wonderful woman" warm 'ooh's and light beatboxing, somber song. pretty and powerful. very forceful harmonies.

CD 3: Meat Is Murder (studio)
*1. (5:13) "the headmaster ritual" downbeat lead melody usurped by haunting vamp. really different. almost ghostly.
2. (4:14) "rusholme ruffians" rapid spat 'dah's and tap-dancey percussion under super upfront normal-tone vox. this is empty-stage cabaret right here… until a crisp chorus comes in midway through.
3. (3:12) "i want the one i can't have" pleasant and full cover. there's an attempt to recreate the skipping feeling in the second verse, but it doesn't quite get there.
4. (3:09) "what she said" blow-out bass trumps the track. rude swells. god damn were these boys unhappy. all the fucking time.
5. (4:05) "that joke isn't funny anymore" a wash of low and syrupy voices. warm swells over polite 'chk's. the "i've seen this happen" vamp is dead on.
*6. (4:40) "how soon is now" drops right down into great effects. the sirens, the chugging, it's all in there. plus, you probably actually know this song.
*7. (4:01) "well i wonder" crisp melodic vibe-like 'doo doo' intro breaks into deep 'chk's and seascape vox.
8. (2:53) "nowhere fast" no percussion or backing whatsoever. to the point that it's disorienting (the original is pretty busy). the vox feel really exposed.
*9. (4:20) "barbarism begins at home" my favourite smiths song, haunting and harsh. i thought i would miss the warring funk bass and marr guitar, but this arrangement kicks so much ass, it doesn't matter.
10. (4:43) "meat is murder" cool and somber seascape effects… and those goddamn cow moans! the melody waltzes right out of the backdrop. eerie & shrill. i've never been able to take this song seriously, but that's besides the point.

CD 4: The Queen Is Dead (studio)
1. (5:42) "the queen is dead" native crowing intro bleeds into jagged beatboxing and edgy vox.
2. (2:34) "frankly mr. shankly" pretty and sweet, no percussion until the second verse (and then it a-splodes). somehow not as fun & quirky as the original, though it smoothes into a confident version of itself by the last minute.
3. (5:31) "i know it's over" brushed drum effects, cool 'chk's, and laid-back beach boysy vibe.
*4. (3:21) "never had no one ever" severe, downbeat blow-out vox and snap drums. moody girlgroup 'ooh's. dripping attitude.
5. (2:46) "cemetry gates" lone high sweet vocal line. no attempt to mimic the fast strums here. very pretty. nice layers kick in during the second verse. the last chorus brings it home.
*6. (3:43) "bigmouth strikes again" if placebo can cover this well, anyone can (she even mimics the molko nasal tone, what?). venomous, low, severe, slowed down to more of a dirge. this song is so very, very good.
7. (3:01) "the boy with the thorn in his side" mid-range melody vox, rudder percussion.
8. (2:21) "vicar in a tutu" super light and fluffy. popcorn 'ooh's. cute!
9. (4:47) "there is a light that never goes out" if you've never put this on a mixtape, you haven't lived. this simple arrangement does the original justice without aiming for theatrics. good move.
*10. (3:44) "some girls are bigger than others" really cool blow-out bass effects, whipsnaps and brit schoolgirl 'hey' callouts. this is such a great song. long fadeout.
(+) *11. (3:47) "the draize train" instrumental. ghosty and groany. lone 'ooh's over deep 'chk's, atmospheric bass and crashes. goes for the fog ash and gloom vibe, and wins.

CD 5: Louder Than Bombs (comp)
1. (3:21) "is it really so strange?" ~8 sec to vox. scratch percussion and low timpani-type sound. very kitchen sinky, possibly at the expense of cohesion.
2. (2:51) "sheila take a bow" super upfront slow beatbox effects and padded drum noise. easy swing.
*3. (3:03) "shoplifters of the world unite" cool drop bass and echoes. smooth transistions from slick low verses to clear hi-reg choruses.
*4. (4:08) "sweet and tender hooligan" oh yeah. cooking minor, busy percussion and vocal stylings that sound like pan flute. well the fuck done.
5. (4:13) "half a person" no percussion until the second verse. clear melody. nice orchestral chorus. this song is so weirdly and unexpectedly touching.
*6. (2:37) "london" the. hell. dancey funk bass where there was just annoying galloping screech noise before. suddenly this song rocks.
7. (3:36) "panic" oh yeah, it's the namesake song of that band we hate. dark, sultry. this somehow strips out all the whimsy and energy from the original. meh.
*8. (2:12) "shakespeare's sister" deep pipe bass line, fingersnaps. the lounge version! more milky than the original, and way more palatable. great arrangement for a difficult song.
9. (3:34) "you just haven't earned it yet, baby" in this arrangement's defense, the original is pretty damn abrupt and abrasive. this version softens and harmonises the edges a bit for a more overall melodic feel. the chorus actually comes off sounding pretty.
*10. (4:00) "ask" it works! takes backing 'bah bah' cues from the poppy peppy original, manages to sound light & quick even over the choir wall. the bass undercurrent about a minute in adds richness & depth. really well done.
*11. (3:34) "golden lights" ~4 sec to start. whoa! unexpected! r&b sexy diva vox. slow handclaps. a huge slow-down from the original, plus the melody turned minor?! the original is basically the smiths' "hitsville uk"… this cover could be destiny's child.
*12. (4:02) "rubber ring" one of the creepier smiths tracks, and this version preserves the accusatory nighttime mood. padded, sinister, lurching bass. still, one of the great hallmarks of the original is that morrissey somehow made "rubber ring" sound like "la da day". no go here.
13. (4:54) "oscillate wildly" instrumental. rapid popcorn vox and electro accents throughout. super silky melody. takes about a minute to get into the groove, but aces it once there. achieves the bulk of the moody atmosphere from the original.
14. (2:44) "stretch out and wait" layered high-reg choral voices. no percussion. pretty, but flat sounding.
15. (4:51) "unloveable" weird gurgling effects sort of ruin it for me. super choral.
16. (5:34) "asleep" this is it, kids. the song that got everyone my age into the smiths. it's really not the same without the piano. wall of sound. this could be nadja.
(+) *17. (4:13) "money changes everything" damn! the original is instrumental, and this arrangement SLAYS. fierce, dark, eerie, tribal. the dynamics and delays are dead-on.

CD 6: Strangeways, Here We Come (studio)
*1. (3:03) "a rush and a push and the land is ours" score! this might be my second fave, and the arrangement here rocks. dark vibey percussive effects, cooking minor. unfortunately, no one can make "phone" sound like "fuck" more like morrissey. ah well.
*2. (3:56) "i started something i couldn't finish" nice version of this. lots of layers, but the voices never overwhelm each other. lower vox, in and out harmonies.
*3. (5:34) "the death of a disco dancer" ~5 sec to start. low bass and diva melody. super chill. the breakdown in the last minute kills.
4. (2:12) "girlfriend in a coma" the boppy effects are in there, but it's just not as fun. and the original is hella fun.
*5. (3:43) "stop me if you think you've heard this one before" the opening beatlesy harmonies! the blippy plucked lines! a lower, harsher voice carries the melody.
6. (5:52) "last night i dreamt that somebody loved me" low monk tones and crowd clips. the "song" starts 2 min in, a rude and lurching dirge, blow-out bass and hairwhip cymbals.
*7. (3:09) "unhappy birthday" ha, i lurve this song. nice beepy bass and low 'oh's. cooking drum kit effects. minor and harsh.
8. (6:31) "paint a vulgar picture" tap dancey percussion and lightweight crisp layered vox. has its slurry melodic moments.
9. (1:46) "death at one's elbow" padded vibe effects and ghosty, moany 'oh's. super subdued.
10. (3:10) "i won't share you" super exposed lead crowded by precise, separated, orchestral 'ooh's. the backing vox actually sound like synthesizer effects. pretty and crisp.
(+) 11. (2:25) "i keep mine hidden" warbling, chirping start. hi-reg multi-track melody over drop-bass and scattered percussion.

Track Listing
1. Reel Around The Fountain   36. Never Had No One Ever
2. You've Got Everything Now   37. Cemetry Gates
3. Miserable Lie   38. Bigmouth Strikes Again
4. The Hand That Rocks The Cradle   39. The Boy With The Thorn In His Side
5. This Charming Man   40. Vicar In A Tutu
6. Still Ill   41. There Is A Light That Never Goes Out
7. Hand In Glove   42. Some Girls Are Bigger Than Others
8. What Difference Does It Make?   43. The Draize Train
9. Pretty Girls Make Graves   44. Is It Really So Strange?
10. I Don't Owe You Anything   45. Sheila Take A Bow
11. Suffer Little Children   46. Shoplifters Of The World Unite
12. William It Was Really Nothing   47. Sweet And Tender Hooligan
13. These Things Take Time   48. Half A Person
14. Handsome Devil   49. London
15. Heaven Knows I'm Miserable Now   50. Panic
16. This Night Has Opened My Eyes   51. Shakespeare's Sister
17. Accept Yourself   52. You Just Haven't Earned It Yet, Baby
18. Girl Afraid   53. Ask
19. Back To The Old House   54. Golden Lights
20. Please Please Please Let Me Get What I Want   55. Rubber Ring
21. Jeane   56. Oscillate Wildly
22. Wonderful Woman   57. Stretch Out And Wait
23. The Headmaster Ritual   58. Unloveable
24. Rusholme Ruffians   59. Asleep
25. I Want The One I Can't Have   60. Money Changes Everything
26. What She Said   61. A Rush And A Push And The Land Is Ours
27. That Joke Isn't Funny Anymore   62. I Started Something I Couldn't Finish
28. How Soon Is Now   63. The Death Of A Disco Dancer
29. Well I Wonder   64. Girlfriend In A Coma
30. Nowhere Fast   65. Stop Me If You Think You've Heard This One Before
31. Barbarism Begins At Home   66. Last Night I Dreamt That Somebody Loved Me
32. Meat Is Murder   67. Unhappy Birthday
33. The Queen Is Dead   68. Paint A Vulgar Picture
34. Frankly Mr. Shankly   69. Death At One's Elbow
35. I Know It's Over   70. I Won't Share You
  71. I Keep Mine Hidden