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Songs for the Terrestrially Challenged

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Album Review

Have you ever wondered what it would sound like if Eddie Van Halen grew up on punk rock, and finally decided to handle Van Halen's vocal chores himself? The weirded-out group The(e) Speaking Canaries thinks it's a wonderful idea to morph Eddie's heavy metal guitar heroics with the classic guitar gear that Dinosaur Jr.'s J. Mascis insists on using. And it's a good thing they conducted this experiment, because the finished result is a new and totally fresh approach to alternative rock. Instead of re-writing Van Halen songs like all of those bad hair-metal bands from the 1980s tried to do, The(e) Speaking Canaries incorporate actual V.H. songs into their own spaced-out originals (with many stretching far beyond the five-minute mark). For example, the near 10-minute long "Hall of Force/Gone Bad/So Glad/Reprise" combines a stomping Speaking Canaries composition with a perfect, note-for-note rendition of V.H.'s overlooked classic "Girl Gone Bad" (ever the perfectionists, they even insert a cover of Cream's "I'm So Glad" at the end, just as Van Halen did on their last two tours with David Lee Roth). Other standout tracks are the parading opener, "Houses and Houses of Perfectness," and the pretty "Guitar Strings for a Holocaust." If you never got into alternative music because you felt the "technicality" of the players wasn't up to snuff, chances are The(e) Speaking Canaries will finally convert you. [Note: the group later re-recorded this double album and issued it under the same title, but as a "lo-fi" edition (on Mind Cure Records).]


Formed: Pittsburgh, PA

Genre: Alternative

Years Active: '90s, '00s

The Speaking Canaries are from Pittsburgh, but after hearing their music, it wouldn't be implausible if someone told you they came from Mars. The band is essentially the twisted vision of guitarist/singer/UFO expert Damon Che, who can also be found playing drums at times in the group Don Caballero. Bassist Karl Hendricks and drummer Noah Leger join Che, and they fill up quite a lot of space for just a trio. Although the group has been well documented as a bunch of Van Halen aficionados, they are...
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Songs for the Terrestrially Challenged, The Speaking Canaries
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