Across The Universe Soundtrack (Part 2)

Back for more, eh?

All righty.  The score is 2-3, Beatles.

Let’s get back in the ring!

– – –

I have a confession to make: as much as I like The Beatles, I really don’t care much for their older material, before Sgt. Pepper’s.  And it’s starting to show.  Cause I don’t really have much to say about this song that I haven’t already covered in “Hold Me Tight”.  Not that much dynamic-wise in Beatles’ version, ATU does it’s best to make the dynamics different.  The only other thing is that, instead of a back-up troup of men and women, Evan Rachel Wood is only accompanied by… two pre-teen girls.

It makes sense, in context of the film.

In any case, there’s not much else to say.  Since this song has pretty much the same merits as “Hold Me Tight” (maybe cause they were from the same frakking album), the point goes to the previous victor of that bout: ATU.

Across The Universe – 3 / The Beatles – 3

Tied again.  But it won’t stay that way for long.

Well, at least we’ve moved on from With The Beatles.  Thank goodness.

I would like to take the time to address the soundtrack.

-ahem-

Dear ATU:

THE BASS AND DRUMS ARE YOU FRIENDS.  THEY GO SPLENDIDLY WITH THE ELECTRIC GUITAR.  PLEASE BRING THEM BACK.  I KNOW THEY WERE AVAILABLE BECAUSE WE JUST HEARD NOT TWENTY MINUTES AGO.  THE LEAST YOU COULD DO IS PICK ANOTHER INSTRUMENT OTHER THAN ELECTRIC GUITAR IF THAT’S THE ONLY ONE YOU’RE GOING TO FEATURE IN A SONG.  EVEN A FIDDLE WOULD DO BETTER THAN YOUR CHOICE OF INSTRUMENTATION.  AND I HATE FIDDLE.

Your friend-but-not-really,

~Jack

Let's just say he fell off that roof when all was said and done.

Seriously, it’s ridiculous that they’d bring out the electric again, only to not have bass or drums playing.  At least The Beatles’ version made sense because it was played on acoustic guitar, and thus seemed more intimate.  ATU’s is just awkward, having an electric guitar play a really fast tempo song, with the only percussion coming from some sticks or whatever.  Each time I hear it, I keep thinking that it’s gonna count in the drums and the rest of the band… and it never happens.  It’s like the drummer suffered a stroke while counting and just kept doing it while the rest of the band nervously moved on like they planned it all along.

You know what makes the acoustic guitar so fitting for a fast song like that?  Because each time the strings are played, they also create a percussive sound to go with the notes.  You know what the distortion of an electric guitar has?  Not-percussive sounds each time it’s played.  It needs something more than a silly stick counting thing.

Across The Universe – 3 / The Beatles – 4

Well.  What’s next?

Oh man.

You may hate me for this, you may agree, you may be indifferent, you may not still be alive… but I will always side with ATU’s version of this song.

This, I feel, was one of the few thing that they did excellently with the movie.  This track is just mind-blowing in it’s execution.  Not just mind-blowing, but also emotional.  You don’t have to know that this is played during a funeral.  You don’t even have to watch the movie to get a pang of sadness and overall feeling in how this is performed.  The Beatles’ version?  It’s really great, too.  It actually builds up from it’s soft beginning and becomes something of a big rock number, which I always like.  But in my opinion, Paul McCartney doesn’t sound like he’s put his soul in the singing like the gospel leader in ATU’s.  It’s just so heart-rending to hear her call out to Mother Mary for comfort.

Fun fact: The ‘Mother Mary’ in the song does not refer to Mary the mother of Jesus.  It is literally Paul McCartney’s mother, who is named Mary.  Understandably, there has been confusion on this issue, as some folks will believe it’s a Catholic song, while others will tell them “No, it’s about his mom”.  Personally, I am not Catholic, by any stretch (though I do make up some great guilt on my part), but I can appreciate how ATU uses that line in context.  It doesn’t mean they’re right in switching the meaning of the lyric around, and it may even be a bit cliche to even go that route given the history of confusion on the matter.  But, to me, those cons are far outweighed by the pros of this track.

Point goes to ATU.

Across The Universe – 4 / The Beatles – 4

Tied again?  Sheesh, I wonder if it’s gonna be close all the way through.  Let’s find out with out next song:

All righty.  This one is not going to be as straightforward as the other choices have been.  This one is definitely going to take a lot of pondering.

Because, essentially, both have something good to offer that is exclusive to their tracks.  For a change, let’s start with the original.

“Come Together” is a gritty, yet mellow piece.  Everything about it is quiet and laid-back, just hanging off to the side and nodding it’s head to the beat.  It doesn’t need screaming.  It doesn’t need a driving beat.  It is what it is.  One thing that you will notice as you listen to the verses is that the lack of sound is just as prominent as the instruments playing it.  What I mean is that when you compare this song to, say, “It Won’t Be Long”, you’re going to find that the dynamics are extremely different between the two.  But that’s a given, because the instruments in “It Won’t Be Long” were meant to be loud and driving.  Here’s the kicker, though: if you also compare this track to “I’ve Just Seen A Face”, that lack of sound will still be prevalent in “Come Together”, even though it’s more complete than the former track.  Sure, the instruments are still there, but there’s a very subtle quality about the track, something that’s just begging for more.

Which makes it all the more satisfying when the bridge takes place and fills that gap with an expanse of sound that makes you feel like the world is forming all around you.

ATU’s version manages to take this gritty song and make it darker, harder, even to the point of being dissonant.  You can tell by the percussion that this one is not going to be as simple as the original.  And it sure isn’t.  As mentioned, there are times when the song takes on a dissonant quality, especially when the back-up singers come in behind Joe Cocker.  It becomes a nagging song in your ears, like the sound of a secret that forces you to realize that you can’t keep ignoring an issue forever.  Menacing is the key-word, here.  And that menacing quality rises up in the form of distortion as soon as the bridge comes up.  Strangely, they decide to do the bridge section after the second verse instead of the third, as was seen the in the original.  But as you listen, you understand why: because the part between the second chorus and the fourth verse is reserved for the solo that’s played by Jojo from the movie.  And boy, that just sounds terrific.  It fits right with the almost apocalyptic mood of the cover.  It’s such a shame, however, that it lasts half as long as the bridge section played earlier.  And that it’s so far into the background that it’s hard to distinguish from the other guitar.

So which one is better?

To be honest, I have to give credit to The Beatles’.  That quiet, almost lack of sound while in the instruments is much more tantalizing than the completely different take from ATU.  I like that ATU adapted the song to make it sound much darker and apocalyptic, but let me put it in perspective: when was the last time that you wanted an apocalyptic feeling to never end?  It’s understandable with The Beatles in that you have your moments where you just want to sit back and sink into the music.  But it’d have to be uncomfortable to do the same thing to the ATU version.

Perhaps if ATU’s was playing for something dark and gritty, kinda like a cop show, then it’d fit right in.  But exclusively in the ears of listeners?  I’ll stick with The Beatles.

Across The Universe – 4 / The Beatles – 5

Nearing the end of this second part.  What shall we close with today?

Oh.

Uh… wow.  Could we get a do-over or something?

And yes, that first part is correct.  It was the only one I could find that is the same as from the movie.  This is the character Sadie.  She’s pretending to be Paul McCartney.  And as you can hear, it’s not exactly flattering.

OK, so how do I put it?  Well… the ATU version just sounds like noise.  A collection of loud, tedious, almost mind-numbing noises put together to give the impression of head banging.  That’s right: never before have encounted an excuse to head bang to The Beatles.

(Unless, of course, if you don’t count Beatallica >_>)

With the change in sound, you can’t help but also feel a change in the meaning of the song.  Which is amazing, considering that the lyrics for this song are “Why don’t we do it in the road?  No one will be watching us.”  That’s it.  Nothing else.  That’s your message of the century right there, children.  No one will be watching us do… Monopoly on the road.  Except for all the angry motorists.

Do Not Pass Go. Do Not Do It In The Road.

In any case, The Beatles’ version had a playful feel to it.  It was a silly sounding track with Paul asking us “Why don’t we do it in the road?”  Like he knows its a joke.  Hell, you listen to this, you feel that you can almost understand the sort of inside joke that happened (which basically consisted of seeing two monkeys get their freak on in the middle of an Indian road.  I forgot the punchline for that bit, there).  As much as it exists, you can’t help but feel that it’s presence is there just to make you laugh.

ATU’s version, on the other hand… it just sounds sleazy.  And I blame Dana Fuchs for that.  Because it’s certainly not my fault that she sounds like it’s crossed her mind to go out into the street and have sex after the song.  Which actually leads to an interesting issue: when male Paul McCartney sang it, the song sounded very silly.  When Dana Fuchs sang it, she sounded like she actually wanted to do it.  Did the difference in gender change the connotation of the song?  Or was it the way that the cover was handled as opposed to the original?

You make the call.

Regardless, I’m not backing up Dana Fuchs’ version, because I’d much prefer to stifle laughter when I suggest doing stuff… on the road.  So… that was a rather easy pick.

Across The Universe – 4 / The Beatles – 6

And that wraps up the second part of the review.  Tune in next time when we start to trip balls.  Loads and loads of balls.  Filled with LSD and PCP and Oxidized Metal Shavings and Sweet N’ Low.

Mmm. Cancer.

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