Kalporz X Monolith Cocktail: [Coverworld] ‘This Strange Effect’ From Nine Perfect Strangers

October 5, 2021

SONG THREAD/NETFLIX: Paolo Bardelli

Continuing our successful collaboration with the leading Italian music publication Kalporz , the Monolith Cocktail shares reviews, interviews and other bits from our respective sites each month. Keep an eye out for future ‘synergy’ between our two great houses as we exchange posts during 2021 and beyond.

This month Kalporz head honcho Paolo Bardelli shares a recent instalment of the site’s [Coverworld series], which runs through the history of a cover song made famous or brought into the public sphere by a contemporary artist (in this case, the recent Netflix hit show Nine Perfect Strangers).

Amazon Prime’s new TV serial Nine Perfect Strangers has a really good theme song by Unloved, a Los Angeles-based soundtrack trio made up of Jade Vincent, Keefus Ciancia and David Holmes. It’s called ‘Strange Effect’ and it’s not an original song (otherwise we wouldn’t be in this column…). More precisely, it is a cover of a 1965 song that has been remade several times.

‘This Strange Effect’ (yes, the original has that extra ‘This’) is a song written by Ray Davies of the Kinks but was first released by singer-songwriter Dave Berry in July 1965. Unloved’s reworking of the song (featuring the voice of Raven Violet, Keefus Ciancia’s daughter) is in line with the dreamy, drug-soaked feel of the series, where Dave Berry’s original is drier and the riff is played by a simple acoustic guitar.

But the Kinks also played it, though they did not officially release any studio version: there is, however, a readily available live recording of it at the BBC in August 1965, which was published in 2001 as the BBC Sessions 1964-1977. The Kinks’ interpretation is essentially identical in arrangement, only the sounds change.

Since then, ‘This Strange Effect’ has received several reinterpretations, the most “famous” being Hooverphonic‘s 1998 rendition, which is consistent with the Belgian band’s typical orchestral arrangements. In its elegance, the violins obsessively repeat those two notes to create a particularly hypnotic suspension effect. Hooverphonic released it as a single (for their album, Blue Wonder Power Milk) and were the first to demonstrate the ‘soundtrack’ capability of the track itself: it ended up in the film Shades (1999), in the TV series Nikita and for the American TV commercial for a Motorola mobile phone in 2005.

The following year, in 1999, the Thievery Corporation thought it best to make a mix of the Hooverphonic version that was almost unrecognisable, with the typical Thievery drumming and Arnaert‘s vocals standing alone at first and then, towards the end, rejoining the musical base of the other two Hooverphonic’s while still with the addictive rhythm of the TCs underneath.

The “ugliest” cover is the one by Bill Wyman, who included it for his 1992 album Stuff: there’s an annoying piano and little sounds that don’t even sound like the country church organ.

While the 2006 version by the Finnish band The Others is practically useless, the dreamy version, between sitar and harmonica, by the British band Squeeze is very histrionic and was included in the deluxe edition of their 2015 album, Cradle to the Grave.

Glen Matlock of the Sex Pistols also approached the song in 1980, with his project The Spectres: the result is interesting, between sax and a ‘Peter Gunn Theme’ style bass line:

A finally electric variant is Steve Wynn‘s on his 1997 album, Sweetness And Light: here how the song starts and shows its multifaceted, and not only “melodious”, soul. One of the most beautiful covers.

‘This Strange Effect’, on the other hand, comes back persuasive in the 2017 version by the Shacks, which has the only merit of ending up as the soundtrack of the iPhone TV commercial, because it has an annoying vocal pitch change in the verse and an incomprehensible speed-up on the ending. The Shacks are an American duo made up of Max Shrager and Shannon Wise, whose Follow Me I recommend listening to, which is very nice.

All in all, the Unloved’s version, although not new (it also appeared in the third series of Killing Eve) is one of the best, and has the merit of having given us the possibility of going through all the epic of this beautiful song from the sixties that still speaks to us.

(Paolo Bardelli)

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