SONG: Black Star (a penitential cover)


“Black Star” [Download]
(penitential cover)

ARTIST: grant.

SOURCE: This has no scientific source; it’s a penitential cover for being late for a song a month or two ago. It’s originally by Radiohead, and was covered acoustically by Gillian Welch with David Rawlin.

ABSTRACT: I was never really into Radiohead at the time. It was the (now-venerable) OK X 10th-anniversary tribute album that really turned me on to the band. So it’s probably unsurprising that I only heard this song – really heard it, I mean – for the first time a couple of weeks ago. I think I’d heard Gillian Welch doing it years ago, but was blissfully unaware that she was covering a crunchy/jangly British rock band with her mist-on-the-windshield-mood bluegrass business. And hey, it had a satellite in the chorus so there, science as metaphor.

I suppose it’s now a typical thing for a musician to talk about discovering things inside Radiohead songs (like, say, “Videotape”) but that happened at least twice with me figuring out this simple-sounding song. For one thing, it’s possible to hear it as all being walkdowns – it’s no wonder it seems to fit Gillian Welch so well, since it’s basically a quilt of country-style doop-doop-dum walkdowns on the A and low-E strings. For another thing – and a very not-country thing, too – it’s built around a dissonant interval. That F#-G hammer-on in the jangly D-chord of the intro bit… that F# and G is all over the song. Especially in that apparently unrelated B-chord (or Em-suspended-something) that makes the end of each verse sound so moody and dark.

So of course what I wanted to do was make that thing obvious, making everything else serve that dissonant thing. It’s an uneasy song. It makes sense to have that uneasiness fit in there.

Everything else is typical lo-fi guitar and vox with a hint of electronic filtering on one track, because, you know, astronomical tools. Satellite telemetry.