Across The Universe Soundtrack (Part 3)

Hmmm, where were we?

4 – 6, The Beatles

Ah, right.  Still pretty close.  But what will today bring?

– – –

Mmm, yes.  This one.

This is a bit of an interesting situation, because the ATU one is incomplete.  It’s slower than The Beatles’ version, and yet they’re both close to the 2:30 time marker (give or take).  And you can see why if you read the lyrics.

Musically, they are drastically different from each other.  The original is a sort of ballad that encompasses the whole band, including the two part harmonies that go with the melody.  For the other, you’ve got a slow interpretation with cello, acoustic, and electric guitar again with no other instruments…  But what makes the electric guitar work here is that it’s not set to distortion or a fast beat.  It’s a soothing California-style echo which gives a quality of keyboards, and it actually helps give the cover some distinction amidst the slower tempo.  Unfortunately, no back-up singers for Evan Rachel Wood.

So, for musical choice, it would probably depend on what you were feeling at that particular moment.  But as a whole, I’m leaning towards ATU, and I’ll show you why using this rather fun exercise:

Remember those lyrics up there for this song?  Read them, and listen to The Beatles singing it.  Then, read them again, and after making some select cuts to match it, listen to the ATU version.

What you will find (hopefully) is that, when the male Beatles sing the song, they give off a weird vibe of promoting jealousy and envy towards a girl that they are not together with anymore.  There is the part where they admit to being hurt in that previous relationship, so they’re naturally concerned about finding someone who won’t put them through that again.  But after that, they say they hope that the previous girl cries because of this new girl.  And personally, I just have to say: if she hurt you, she may not care that you found someone else.  Course, that just might be a generational thing.  I don’t know what the status quo of relationships were like in the 60s.

When you listen to the ATU version, you’ll probably get a very different feel of the song.  The female Evan Rachel Wood is hoping that the man of interest in the song will treat her well, since she’s been hurt by love before.  I would tell you it’s because Lucy (her character in the movie) had a boyfriend who died while in the war, but we’re not counting the movie.  We’re going by auditory merit alone.  But it still works.  In fact, it gives a more mysterious feel by trying to imagine how she was hurt previous to this song.

That’s all well and good, but what gives it that extra push over The Beatles’ version? 

The lack of lyrics.

By taking out this line: 

“And that she will cry when she learns we are two”

ATU paints Evan Rachel Wood in a much more sympathetic light.  The song drastically changes from a “I’ve been hurt, but I want to use you as revenge against my previous girlfriend” song to a “if we’re going to do this, then I need to be sure that this will work, because I can’t be hurt again” song.  Especially from the line:

“That you would love me more than her.”

That line makes the singer sound that much more vulnerable and unsure, which sells the song based on a truly honest feeling.  And that’s what makes it feel so powerful.

Besides, despite having three vocalists, it’d be very weird to imagine all four Beatles having a relationship with one woman.

Unless...

Across The Universe – 5 / The Beatles – 6

Boy, it’s been pretty close so far.  How long will this keep up?

… Huh.

Well, this is an easy one for me.

First off, there’s always going to be people who are turned off by music that lasts more than 5 minutes.  It’s a tricky field to navigate, what songs start becoming too long and what songs actually benefit from lasting this long.  But, to me, The Beatles’ version benefits from it.  The whole subject of the song is about how there’s someone that John Lennon wants, and it drives him mad at the prospect of it.  That’s dandy, there are quite a few songs like that.  But then he goes on to describe how she (or it, in regards to the infatuation he has on her) is heavy.  It’s not a literal heavy; it’s an emotional one.  And anyone who’s had a crush on someone will readily tell you just how heavy a feeling like that can be on their bodies, even when there’s no physical load.

For ATU… it’s hard to tell what the feeling is like.

If you were to look at it from the movie’s perspective:

Really puts things in perspective, yeah?

If only we could count that towards the decision.

But we can’t, because it’s exclusive to the movie, and (sing it with me now) we’re not counting the movie in this review.

This is one of the issues with the movie (and vicariously the soundtrack).  The music in the soundtrack isn’t even the same as the music in the movie.  They have extensions of the song in the movie that don’t match with the soundtrack.  And Dana Fuchs comes into the soundtrack song a little after the beginning.  In the movie song?  Near the end.  Why have this inconsistency?

Oh yeah… because the movie wasn’t shot the same way that the soundtrack was made.

I feel a headache coming on…

Maybe this will help.

So… not counting the movie version of the song, what merit does the soundtrack version have?  Very little.  Because of the multiple singers, it’s hard to tell what the message of the track is.  I’m assuming that they each want… someone, but is it the same someone or is it a whole gaggle of different people for each singer?  Do they want someone’s vote?  Is a schoolteacher required for the little village?  Is little Tammy stuck in the well and Lassie’s gone off for help?  Is an orgy happening this weeked?  WHAT THE FLYING FRAK IS GOING ON?!

Part of what made The Beatles’ track so memorable was how the song kept repeating the same few bars from 4:37 until the end at 7:44.   That’s 3 minutes of the same chord progression and melody.  It would drive anyone crazy.

Which I believe was the whole point.

This was a build-up of tension.  The same thought patterns, the same idea floating in John’s head, it kept going for so long, it’d make anyone feel uncomfortable sitting through something that doesn’t change.  But while the progression of the song doesn’t change, there is one thing that’s added to the track.  A hissing sound.  White noise.  And while it may start off subtle, it starts to grow.  And grow.  And grow.  This adds even more tension to the already maddening idea of someone being stuck in your head.  A foreign visitor in your mind.  You begin to feel claustrophobic, but nothing can help because it’s all in the head, and it all bears down on you, slowly crushing you from the lack of control that your mind has because of this one person, and everything gets hazy, the eyes can’t see straight anymore, and everything you hear is becoming distorted and you can’t move without something being in pain and your chest feels like it’s trying to expand when there’s no more room and everything becomes impossible to handle until

*SNAP*

And that’s the song.

And let me ask you this:

You get that feeling in the ATU version?

Cause I don’t.

Across The Universe – 5 / The Beatles – 7

Next venture, please.

Boy, this is not making my job easier.

To tell the truth, I’m not a big fan of this song.  I’ve never really liked it.  I mean, it’s OK.  Just hasn’t been my cup of tea.

Each version has something different to sell.  The original has a hypnotic guitar to it, with just a bit of energy in the drums so that it’s not entirely laid back.  The cover takes out the hypnotic guitar, but chooses to have a much more hypnotic feel to it by way of the percussion, which matches the tempo of  the song.  What makes this evident is the inclusion of a chime-like sound, almost like meditation chimes.  But regardless of how each one is presented, it’s very clear that the goal was to have a meditation-like quality in the song.

At 2:55 of The Beatles’ version, though, it decides to kick things up a notch and make it a bit more driving, thus adding more energy to the song.  It breathes new life into the song which had just before felt like it had wanted to do much more.

The ATU version… just remains consistent in the beat and chooses to continue to sound hypnotic.

But also, The Beatles’ version has a bit of shaky vocals due to John Lennon’s voice.  His voice doesn’t quite sound right as he attempts to slide up in his voice.

The ATU version gives those over to the females of the cast, thus making the vocals sound much cleaner than The Beatles.

So, pros and cons aside, which one sounds better?

To me, I have to give it to The Beatles, if only for two reasons:

  1. The guitar.  That acoustic riff that permeates throughout the whole song just sounds more hypnotic than the drums.  It’s easy to nod your head in time to both instruments, but I feel that there’s more reason to be hypnotized by the guitar than the drums.  Probably because it’s an actual melody instead of solo instrumentation.
  2. Progression.  Like I said before, The Beatles’ version kicked things up a notch whereas the ATU version just decided to remain in hypnosis.  What makes them different, though, is that The Beatles’ version gives the illusion (*smacks himself*) that once the hypnosis has sunk in, the person in question runs off to be a part of the hallucination, like running freely in their own created world.  The ATU version instead just decides “Nah, I’m fine where I am.  I like the monotany of sitting in place thinking about nothing in particular and just letting time pass by me.”  And I don’t fully agree with that.

Across The Universe – 5 / The Beatles – 8

Next.

Well, this is almost not fair.  Considering that there’s no vocals for “Flying”, The Beatles’ are already at a disadvantage because their trademark vocals aren’t present.

Well… Not entirely.  But it’s not the same as singing actual lyrics.

This is going to be a tough one, because each song gives a different feeling.

The original has a very laid-back sentiment to it.  Almost dream-like.  It would not be far off to hear this kind of thing while dreaming about flying in a bright blue sky, over green fields and past hot air balloons.  The whole experience is very mellow, made to go rather well with your piping hot… pipe of LSD and what-have-you.

The cover, however, is much more mechanical.  Electronic.  It has an industrial feel to it, without being industrial music.  Like your travelling in a steam-punk zeppelin through a bustling metropolis, while this is blasting out of the attached loudspeakers.  Excellent fuel for steam-punk fantasies.

The only problem I can see of the two are these:

The original is much too short, when compared to the cover.  Granted, it could be that it’s time was the only amount needed for the album.  And it’s possible that Secret Machines (the band that did this cover) got a bit carried away by their imaginary trip.  Still, when it comes down to it, I would prefer a longer version, like the ATU version.

However, remember how I said that the cover could be heard blasting through a loudspeaker?  That’s because it’s loud.  Almost to the point of sounding like noise.  Where the original was so clear in its instrumentation, the cover has a very booming quality to it.  And I always pictured the art of flying as something elegant and simple, not bombastic and gritty.

It’s really close, but ultimately…

… I have to go with The Beatles.

Because I believe that it’s simplistic nature is what defines the track “Flying”.  Even if it is the shorter, at least it was very clear on what the melody was.  At first, the cover’s instruments blared over the melody, which probably explains why they made it longer so it could return and be established.  But I don’t get the feeling of simplicity with the cover.  It feels too forced.  Like there was too much thought added to the track, when it could just get by with ease.  Almost like flying.

Across The Universe – 5 / The Beatles – 9

Well, so much for that whole ‘being close’ thing.

Ah.  Hmmm…

Really, I like the cover more than the original.

I don’t know what to tell you.  Aside from the modern recordings, instruments, and lack of cello, I prefer Secret Machines’ vocalist as opposed to George Harrison.  Plus, the flanger on the original’s vocals was… well, I didn’t like it as much as the cover.

You know, after thinking about it some more, I believe the reason I like the cover more is because of escalation.  As in, it starts off rather simple.  But as the song progresses, it begins to sound more and more encompassing.  Like you getting lost further and further into the hallucination, much like from “Dear Prudence”.

I don’t know.  All I can tell you is that I prefer the cover over the original.

Sorry about the lack of helpful info.  To make up for it, here’s a picture of Steve Martin ironing a kitten.

This will explain everything.

Across The Universe – 6 / The Beatles – 9

Well, that does it for today.  Come by next time when we have not one but TWO special guest stars, we trip some more balls, and then have a lovely and altogether stirring debate on the pros, cons, chipperwits, and overall ethics of Evan Rachel Wood’s cleavage.

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