By Daniel Cairns
2009 was a tremendous year for music. We saw fantastic records come from artists like Portal and Mastodon, and witnessed the very public birth of incredible new talent like Justin Bieber. It truly was something of an annus mirabilis.
However, one event dealt a crushing blow to the annus, like a great, flaming dildo.
We said goodbye to Michael Jackson.
Yes, the King of Pop popped one too many pills, and popped off to the great pop concert in the sky. It was a momentous event, in some morbid way. Just like everyone remembered where they were when JFK was shot, everyone remembers where they were when they heard the news that MJ had died. I certainly do. I was tossing myself off stupid over emaciated Eastern European girls getting gangbanged when a friend msned me with the heartbreaking news.
After walloping one out, I perused the internet, confirming to myself that he had indeed left blood (and probably vomit) on the dance floor. It was a sad day. This man got me into music as a child. He got everyone into music as a child.
Alas, like a bunch of seagulls flying after a trawler, musicians and artists clamoured after his… er, carcass. Tribute after tribute came out, and outpourings of emotion frothed bountifully like… a great big fucking bounty bar. I mean, just look at his funeral. It was like a veritable cavalcade of pop history, as Usher, Justin Timberlake and The Jacksons themselves all gave heart rending tributes to this musical behemoth.
And now, we can add Sunn O))) to that list.
Yes, the pioneers of drone doom have contributed their own tribute to the King of Pop in the form of Earth Songs, a haunting collection of the King of Pop’s greatest hits, reinterpreted for artfags and people who like a smoke. Comprising 5 songs over 12 cds, it’s both a touching ode to Michael Jackson, and a sterling piece of drone in itself.
Kicking off with title track Earth Song (which at 100 odd minutes, is the sprightliest track on the album), the listener is attacked with an unrelenting wave of the band’s now legendary feedback. After forty minutes of this, guest vocalist Alan Dubin ( of Khanate, OLD and Gnaw fame) blasts in with his trademark howl. ‘WHAT ABOUT ELEPHANTS?’ he torturously croons, over detuned guitars and funky beats (provided by Timbaland). It’s a pulsating, immediate start to the album.
The next track, a heartbreaking rendition of The Girl is Mine, featuring a beautifully judged duet between Lee Dorrian and Tito Jackson, slows things write down. Over 6 CDs, the pair argue over who the girl actually belongs to, whilst the musical backdrop gives the music a sinister, ‘dangerously obsessive stalker ex boyfriend’ menace. It’s a harrowing piece of work. A bit like Thriller.
Speaking of which, that’s the next song. Jarboe is the guest artist this time, and she stalks menacingly through a bowel rupturing soundscape of noise. In keeping with the spirit of the original, Sunn O))) acquired a guest actor for the spoken word parts. Naturally Vincent Price wasn’t available, because he’s fucking dead. Thankfully though, the band found his spiritual successor to fill in… Michael Cera.
To go through the rest would ruin the experience for you. All I’ll say though, is that you have a version of Billy Jean that would make Thor done a poo.
Sunn O))) have delivered possibly the greatest covers album in the history of music. I’d be very surprised if Michael Jackson wasn’t in Heaven right this minute, bouncing Bubbles off his knee, thinking to himself ‘fucking spot on lads.’
It don’t matter if you’re black or white. Absolutely everyone will enjoy this.