When an artist describes their style as, “Electronic Alternative Indie Experimental Dubstep Radioheadese” , then says they’re going to cover half of Fleetwood Mac’s ‘Tusk’ album…one’s immediate reaction might be to ask how, and why.
But it works. Listening to ‘Tusk’, by Temporary Hero, the songs we’ve come to know off by heart, even without really knowing how, the songs which are ingrained in the very psyche of those of a certain age – those songs take on a whole new meaning, and are imbued with new beauty.
Temporary Hero started out making underground club records, had a top 20 Billboard dance hit (Wild Joy), and moved into covering the classic artists he loved, such as Bing Crosby and Frank Sinatra. He then released ‘Chet’, honouring the jazz master, Chet Baker. Named for a Pat Benatar song, the music made by this artist is best described as retro-electronic: there’s hints of 50s do-wap, 70s prog rock, and a lot of entirely contemporary sound.
The pseudonym of Portland Maine artist Jonah Bell, Temporary Hero for his latest project reimagines ten tracks from Tusk, including ‘Storms’, ‘The Ledge’, ‘Sara’, and of course, the title track, ‘Tusk’ itself.
Bell was asked why he decided to cover the Holy Grail of Fleetwood Mac albums:
“I list TUSK as my all time favorite album. The interesting thing for is that as a kid I didn’t like it at all. I bought it because I was (and still am) obsessed with buying full albums… love the art, the smell, the sound, of a new record. But the only reason I bought TUSK was because I loved THINK ABOUT ME. As a kid I could not for the life of me appreciate the song SARA nor would I understand the epic nature of the song TUSK. But as I grew older, I became immersed in the magic of Stevie Nicks and songs like STORMS and BEAUTIFUL CHILD would move me to tears. And the raw Lindsey Buckingham songs like THAT’S ALL FOR EVERYONE, NOT THAT FUNNY became the epitomes of lo-fi masterpieces.
I don’t think an album like this would be welcome in today’s cut and paste musical world. With the purchase of the super-deluxe set that was just released in December, I salivated over EVERY alternate take of I KNOW I’M NOT WRONG and others. So, while cutting tracks for the #WARHOL project I decided to cover I KNOW I’M NOT WRONG but in a house-kissed “Temporary Hero” style with tribal drums. But… it wasn’t working at all. So I put that song aside and continued to work on the #WARHOL album… mixing and fine tuning some new songs. Then one day I was fiddling in the studio with a loop that reminded me of Sara and… BAM!
I decided to cover Sara, the most untouchable of all Stevie/Mac tunes. And from there, well, 8 more tracks were done in the course of two days. And that leads me back to I KNOW I’M NOT WRONG. I just couldn’t let the song whither away. I am not one to accept defeat. So with a live band I went for the most traditional approach possible… the song is re-arranged. What is so curious is that the one song that was supposed to be electronic now became the most organic/acoustic of all the tunes on the TUSK project. Will I cover the ten other TUSK tunes that I haven’t touched? Time will tell!
It’s ‘Sara’, however, that’s been given the most intriguing of treatments. With a mellow, sweet backing vocal echoing and oohing – almost doo-wop – behind Bell’s strident lead, it’s lush and gorgeous and multi-layered, with instrumental details demanding multiple listenings.
‘Tusk’ will be released on 25 March. Check out the Temporary Hero playlist on YouTube, from Anticodon Records.