Steel Cage Match: OneTwo VS John Foxx + The Maths

By a strange and eerie coincidence [none dare call it conspiracy], September has brought to the Monk’s Record Cell two completely different cover versions of the same Pink Floyd song  from 1975’s “Wish You Were Here.” The original “Have A Cigar” was a deeply cynical slice of period Floydian cosmic funk with guest vocals from Roy Harper. Richard Wright’s shimmering synths held ground with David Gilmour’s guitars and we’ll call the original a draw between the two. This month drew my interest because two/three of my favorite artists have now covered “Have A Cigar;” Onetwo, featuring Teutonic chanteuse Claudia Brücken as well as OMD’s Paul Humphreys and John Foxx’s new combo, The Maths. Between the three of them they represent many feet of real estate on the Monk’s racks! Let’s see how their respective versions stack up!

THEREthere | UK | CD | 2007 | TTCDX004

Onetwo: Instead UK CD [2007]

  1. The Theory Of Everything [part 1]
  2. The Theory Of Everything [part 2]
  3. Sequential
  4. Home [tonight]
  5. Signals
  6. Have A Cigar
  7. I Don’t Blame You
  8. Cloud Nine
  9. Anonymous
  10. Heaven
  11. Kein Anschluβ
  12. The Weakness In Me
  13. A Vision In The Sky

I’m crestfallen to admit that I only just got the 2007 Onetwo album “Instead” in spite of collecting both OMD and Claudia Brücken records of every stripe. I immediately bought the singles from it but dawdled on the album – I’m sorry! Look at the background tile to this blog. There are three Claudia Brücken sleeves and one OMD sleeve in that collage! Still, the Floyd cover is a great little addition to the running order on “Instead.” It begins with washes of deepwater synth chords over which the melodic hooks glisten like shimmering shards of soaring stainless steel. The sound is not terribly removed from that of the original version, but with the added benefit of  polyphony. Then the pounding dancefloor rhythm starts and you’d be forgiven for singing “Relax” over a loop of this bar, because it fits like a glove. Try it. Go ahead. You’re welcome.

This is not a deep shock because this album was mixed by the golden ZTT hands and ears of Bob Kraushaar – Theam member and the mixer of many a ZTT classic, so it comes by its pedigree honestly. Then Claudia enters the song and bites the lyrics, though her voice is dampened by the protective membrane of effects that enshroud her delivery. Still, the song in their capable hands is effectively turned into a streamlined dancefloor stomper, and something a million miles away from the original. For anyone pining away for the “classic ZTT” sound, Bob Kraushaar has delivered it right here! Bonus points for the band replicating the original “compress to mono transistor radio speaker” swishpan segue to the next song abruptly at the end, just like Pink Floyd did in ’75.

Mojo Magazine | UK | CD | October 2011

Various Artists: Return To The Dark Side Of The Moon/Wish You Were Here Again UK CD [2011]

  1. Gallops: Speak To Me
  2. Our Broken Garden: Breathe
  3. The Oscillation: On The Run
  4. Wolf People: Time
  5. The Last Hurrah!!: The Great Gig In The Sky
  6. The Pineapple Thief: Money
  7. Doug Paisley Feat. Garth Hudson & Maud Hudson: Us And Them
  8. Matt Berry: Any Colour You Like
  9. Neville Skelly: Brain Damage
  10. Of Arrowe Hill: Eclipse
  11. Malachai: Shine On You Crazy Diamond (Part 1)
  12. Beak>: Welcome To The Machine
  13. John Foxx And The Maths: Have A Cigar
  14. Lia Ices: Wish You Were Here
  15. The Orb: Shine On You Crazy Diamond (Part 2)

First of all, if you haven’t heard it yet, you may download the track for free in full CD quality here courtesy of Mojo, who inadvertently mastered an unfinished version of the track on the actual CD bundled with this month’s edition of their mag.

John Foxx + The Math’s version of “Have A Cigar” couldn’t be more different. First up, the track is unabashedly hip deep in analog synthesizers, percolating diligently away with sequenced polyrhythms that weave a complex web of sound. Foxx also treats his vocal, albeit more severely with a stilted, flat delivery that is heavily vocoded; resulting in his vocal sounding much like a Dalek trying to glad-hand a naive band of suckers for the taking. And really, should not a record label exec sound exactly like a Dalek? They’re about as warm.

Overall, Foxx and Benge take the song far from its comfort zone and then going further, they have no compunction to mess with it some more; even going off beat on the delivery of some of the lyric lines for further emphasis. They cheekily change the famous lyric in the tune this:

“The sound is just fantastic, it’s really very phat,
Oh and by the way, which one’s Math?”

It takes a few spins to get under your skin but Foxx and Benge have stretched the template of the song far beyond what what you would have imagined up front when contemplating the tune of yore. I’d have to go back as far as Kraftwerk’s “Computerworld” to remember a song with as dense and complex an electronic sound as evidenced here. And, as I stated in my review of “Interplay” a while back, Foxx and Benge have created an incredible sound you haven’t heard in over 30 years and have missed terribly.

So who wins the match? That’s an easy one… anyone who’s listening. I really can’t pick a fave as both versions of the tune put so much of a different spin on the tune, which is one of the better “arena period” Floyd tracks in any case. It comes down to what’s your mood; a streamlined autobahn of a tune [Onetwo] or a Frankenstein’s Monster [John Foxx + The Maths]?

– 30 –

About postpunkmonk

graphic design | software UI design | remastering vinyl • record collector • satire • non-fiction
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7 Responses to Steel Cage Match: OneTwo VS John Foxx + The Maths

  1. Echorich says:

    I have to agree. Props go out to both versions for what the artists brought to their interpretations. Spot on pointing out the ZTT nod (but god am I glad that Ivory Tower bunch didn’t ever get their hands on OMD). Ms Brucken is strict mistress here! I even feel a certain Weimar Republic / Teutonic / Cabaret (imagery – certainly no Liza vocals here!) essence in the production and delivery. Instead is a wonderful album. I played it through everyday for 4 months when it first came out. In someways it re-ignited my delving back into the electronic 80’s I love so much.
    The John Foxx + The Maths version feels like a track recorded at 5 am after way too many cigarettes, vodkas and hours with headphones on! It’s brilliantly dark and slightly amusing. The vocal effects and the thick analog synths hypnotic with out all the PF hippy-ness. Foxx and Benge have definitely hit on something special with + The Maths project! It’s one of the best albums of the year for me.
    Great post!

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    • postpunkmonk says:

      Echorich – Know that this is the only cover version Foxx has recorded since his first single* in 1975. British psychedelia is a huge thing for Foxx, and he was definitely a Floyd fan. He speaks eloquently about how his teenaged attendance of the 14 Hour Technicolour Dream gave him a sense of possibilities he’s striven to investigate his entire artistic career. Spot on with the 5 a.m. allusions, methinks. It is funny, in a sick, skewed way; hence the sardonic “laughing bag” used at the top of the track.

      * Foxx’s first single with the proto-Ultravox! band Tiger Lily was a cover of Fat’s Waller’s “Ain’t Misbehavin'” [!] recorded by commission as the soundtrack for a porn film [!!] for enough scratch to buy Billy Curry [sic] an electric piano. Tiger Lily then changed their name to the much more eloquent Ultravox! the subesequent year.

      And don’t you just love how everyone in either band looks so stony and belligerent? I couldn’t have found better photos of each band glowering at each other!

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    • postpunkmonk says:

      Echorich – Re: ZTT + OMD. Well, it couldn’t have been too much worse than Stephen Hague, could it? It’s interesting to hear Andy McCluskey talk these days about that period. He has serious regrets for ever working with Hague. Hague at his best still has strong whiffs of the mid-80s malaise. His acme was probably “True Faith.” But OMD would have seriously fallen out of favor if they had stuck to their guns. The marketplace had moved on by 1983, hence the disastrous reception of “Dazzle Ships,” which was no more than a logical progression from the chart-topping “Architecture + Morality.” It was the time of bland, neo soul [Culture Club] and production records [ZTT] topping the charts and OMD’s time in the sun [which was a miracle of timing and zeitgeist] would have moved on for good if they hadn’t chased the marketplace. Remember, in the eighties if your single didn’t go top 20, it was time to break up! How we can laugh, now!

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      • Echorich says:

        Point certainly taken Monk! Yes the Hague years are more than disappiointing for me. I didn’t even mind missing them open for Depeche Mode at the Jones Beach Ampitheater in the late 80’s because Mr. Hague’s and Tom Lord Alge’s production was so slick and bland. I was afraid to hear the earlier tracks produced up for live performance.
        Hague’s work with Pet Shop Boys was much more in line with what the band seemed to be trying to achieve. I think there was a strength to the early PSB work which kept the production from running over the work in their case.

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    • postpunkmonk says:

      Echorich – Funny you should mention OMD on ZTT

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      • Echorich says:

        Hmmm a coincidence that I am now a little intrigued and fearful to investigate!
        Thanks for the heads up Monk… We will certainly have to compare notes once available!

        Like

        • postpunkmonk says:

          Echorich – Yeah, I thought that was a little freaky when it appeared on the OMD forum, which I’ve been reading now for a year. I’m usually resistant to forums; they are generally too “social” there for my tastes, but OMD are just so interesting to me now that I’m “sticking” to the forum. The fact that Andy posts there often [and frankly] gives good insight to how things are going now for them. Of course, I don’t socialize there. That I don’t understand, but I do have 80+ posts to my “name.” A shocking admission.

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