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the story of our lives EP
Artist: the echoing green
Label: A Different Drum 
Length: 10 tracks/ 52:21

“The Story of Our Lives” is one of the greatest songs of this half-decade.  If you haven’t at least heard this song yet, make a note to yourself to do so.  If you’ve heard the song and don’t agree, then please do the following: get a Q-Tip, swathe it in alcohol, clean the earwax out of your ears, grab your headphones and cd player or iPod, and play that song as you go for a walk round your neighborhood at sunset.  See?  That song is phenomenal.  There are few other pop songs I’ve heard in recent years that even come close to matching its amazing mixture of soaring beauty, exciting baselines, and purely uplifting lyrics.  Thus, theming a remix EP off of the song could be rather risky--will the other bands handling the remixes be able to retain the glory of the original song, while presenting it in new ways that are different and interesting enough to capture attention? 

The EP opens with a remix by the big man himself.  Joey Belville’s new version of  “Story…” opens with a gentle piano refrain of the chorus, then drifts back into the familiar thump-thump of the original’s opening verse.  The chorus after the first verse is also new here- the driving baseline that propelled the original drops off unexpectedly in this version, and it creates a very starry, free-flowing sound; it evokes the same soaring feeling as making a long running leap off of a cliff and free-falling.  Wear a parachute.  

The other four versions of “Story…” are energetic, straight for the dance floor remixes.  They’re fun, but overall not daring enough. There are a couple of stand out remixes, but they aren’t the new versions of the title-track.  Sequencia’s version of “Winter” effectively turns the somber, wistful original version into a highly entertaining faster-paced pop gem, and Random Access Memory’s remix of “Fall Awake” strips the original of its prickling lead-in and hammering chorus, replacing it with more simplistic thumpy lines and some starry, pretty synth bubblings. To a lesser extent, I enjoyed Variant’s version of “Blind” as well, which retains the dark and atmospheric tones of the original while filling it with interesting noises and electronic playfulness.  The above-mentioned remix of “Story…” by Belville himself is also very gorgeous.  But I wish the artists that handled the remixes of “Story…” had made a stronger effort at making their version truly unique- none of them are bad, if I’m giving you that impression, but I feel that they simply didn’t do enough exploring on their part.

The two yet unmentioned tracks are also included on the much more widely available recent Special Edition of the winter of our discontent, so their inclusion on this EP is a little less worth noting than it would have been otherwise, even though they did come first on this EP.  “The Sparrows and the Nightingales” is nigh-drop-dead beautiful, with some great dark melodies dancing throughout.  “Seaside” employ’s Joey’s emotive lyrics and soft melodies that are becoming a signature of his lately.  Many critics commend his emotion-dripping, imagery filled lyrics; personally, I’d rather hear a great melody, and Belville certainly has written plenty.  “Seaside” is decent
enough, but it takes its place with other newer tracks from the LP- “Heidi’s Song,” “Starling”, and others- as tracks that I feel focus too much on sweet lyrics and not enough on good hooks and melodies.

Perhaps I expected too much.  Not to undermine them or their efforts, but if the artists that handled the new versions of the title-track are just electronic dance acts, then I suppose I should not expect anything more from them.  But I would have liked to see more bravery on their part- “The Story of Our Lives” is regarded by many who are familiar with underground music as one of the most beautiful songs in some years.  It would have been great to hear other acts truly exploring the ins and outs of the song.  But I digress- big fans of electronic club and dance music will thoroughly enjoy the new remixes in this EP, and the other songs are solid enough.  Check it out if you are a fan, but newbies should be content with the original “The Story of Our Lives” on the winter of our discontent. 

Jonathan Avants 5/19/05



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