We were intrigued to hear the news last week that Radiohead are planning on releasing a series of 12″ remixes of the songs from The King of Limbs, handing over the album tracks to producers like Flying Lotus and Caribou to cut up and reinterpret. Perhaps unsurprisingly, given their love of all things electronic, Radiohead have always been enlightened when it comes to having their tracks reworked, so much so that there are a couple of Radiohead remixes out there that arguably improve on the original versions. These got us thinking about other guitar-based or otherwise rock-inflected tracks that have been improved by remixing – they’re surprisingly few and far between, perhaps because writers of rock songs have been loath to let producers deconstruct them over the years. We’ve collected ten of our favorites; additional suggestions are, as ever, welcome.
Radiohead – “Talk Show Host” (Nellee Hooper remix)
Originally buried on the B-side to “Street Spirit (Fade Out),” this turned out to be one of the best Bends-era tracks once it was administered a bit of love and some gentle tweaks by Massive Attack producer Nellee Hooper. The remixed version made its way onto the soundtrack for Baz Luhrmann’s Romeo + Juliet and also into the band’s live setlist. It’s not the only Radiohead track improved by an external remix – see also “Skttrbrn,” the Four Tet remix of Hail to the Thief‘s “Scatterbrain” that we discussed a couple of weeks back.
Cornershop – “Brimful of Asha” (Fatboy Slim remix)
We’re quite partial to the album version of “Brimful of Asha,” but there’s no doubt that it would have languished in obscurity if not for Fatboy Slim’s remix. The reworked version lifted the tempo by about 15bpm and tightened up the original’s somewhat loose structure, turning it from an endearingly rambling ode to Bollywood into a genuine floor filler. (It looks like Cornershop aren’t particularly fond of the remix these days, though, as they keep having it yanked off YouTube.)
Le Tigre – “Deceptacon” (DFA remix)
Honestly, this is one of those situations where we love both original version and remix for entirely different reasons. The hyperspeed harangue that is the original version of “Deceptacon” is a classic in its own right, a coruscating lyric that flays everyone from the terminally dull Fat Mike and NOFX to pretty much anyone else who’s ever hated on Kathleen Hanna, Bikini Kill, and/or women in general — and does so in a way that’s decidedly danceable. James Murphy and Tim Goldsworthy’s remix is fantastic because it’s so different, reimagining the song as a jaunty funk jam, built around crisp drums and a bouncing synth line that replaces the blaring saw waves of the original.
The Ruts – “Babylon’s Burning” (Kid Loco’s Strictly For Rockers mix)
Also on the dance punk-related tip, we came across this a few years back on a killer compilation called Modern Wild Dub. It’s a fantastic mix that lifts a guitar sample from The Ruts’ overlooked punk classic and constructs a whole new interpretation of it, creating a track that’s all scything guitars and clattering beats, a perfect union of past and future. Have a look at the original above, and then listen to the remix below.
Tori Amos – “Professional Widow” (Armand Van Helden Star Track Funkin’ Mix)
Armand Van Helden might look like Ali G, but he worked wonders with a couple of simple vocal snippets from “Professional Widow.” The resultant phenomenon – a bunch of dudes who’d never normally listen to Tori Amos getting jiggy on the dance floor to the sound of a song that disses Courtney Love – was laden with so many kinds of irony that it was like the whole thing was one big postmodern conspiracy.
Tame Impala – “Half Full Glass of Wine” (Canyons remix)
It’s been excellent to see ultra-talented Australian trio Tame Impala getting a heap of hype over the last year or so – they’re definitely a band to watch for the future, creating a modern take on the fuzzed-out psychedelic sounds of the late ’60s. Less obviously, perhaps, they’re also dance-friendly: they do a fantastic cover of Blue Boy’s “Remember Me,” and their track “Half Full Glass of Wine” was the catalyst for one of the best rock-meets-dancefloor remixes of recent years, by production duo and Modular Records labelmates Canyons. We dig it a lot.
Everything But the Girl – “Missing” (Todd Terry remix)
Now that the dust has settled and this song hasn’t been played to death for a few years, we can reassess just what a great remix this was. The original is… well, honestly, it’s kind of dull, really – slightly wet acoustic folky stuff. Happily, the band came up with the idea of giving it to house producer Todd Terry to rework, and the resultant remix was so ubiquitous that it became the ninth-longest-charting song in US history, making EBTG unlikely club compilation staples and leading the band to change their musical direction accordingly. These days, Ben Watt runs the excellent Buzzin’ Fly label, whose output is well worth investigating.
Yeah Yeah Yeahs – “Zero” (Animal Collective remix)
Animal Collective adopt a suitably trippy approach to creating an old school dubplate with their remix of “Zero.” As producers like King Tubby used to do, they extract a couple of key elements of the original track and then set them in a strange, echo-laden soundscape, with fascinating results. Like “Deceptacon,” the original and remix are so different that comparing them is like comparing apples and oranges – but they’re both great. The Yeah Yeah Yeahs original is above; listen to the Animal Collective remix below.
Phoenix – “Lisztomania” (Classixx Version)
It’s not as if “Lisztomania” wasn’t danceable enough already, but LA production duo Classixx’s interpretation turns it from an infectious pop song into a smoldering, house-flavored late-night epic that would be the perfect soundtrack to expensive martinis at a classy bar where someone else is paying.
Kings of Leon – “Knocked Up” (Lykke Li vs Rodeo remix)
The last time we said something nasty about Kings of Leon, someone in the comments section said something to the effect that they bet we were closet fans and loved them before it became fashionable to hate on them. For the record, this isn’t true – even in the early days, we found their hirsute, alpha-male jock stylings hard to take – but we will admit that we didn’t think Because of the Times was a bad record, and that “Knocked Up” was its best song. As such, this remix started with a good basis, and the idea of getting Lykke Li (another artist we don’t altogether care for) to reinterpret the vocals was a stroke of genius. The remix is great, too, removing the guitars and replacing them with ominous synth pads. See? A good remix can even make Kings of Leon sound good!