July 15, 2009

Let’s just say you love me :: The National cover Mark Mulcahy


Today we got our first listen into the solid forthcoming album of covers of Mark Mulcahy’s songs, Ciao My Shining Star, a benefit album for this wonderfully rich songwriter in his hour of financial need (his wife died, leaving him with small twins to raise).

The lead off track is an icy reworking of “All For The Best” by Radiohead‘s Thom Yorke, and we’ll get to that in a sec, but the one that caught my eye even more quickly is the new cover from The National. I’ve loved this song below for a few years now, and I am flabbergasted at how much the original just sounds like a National song now that I listen to it through that filter. I think this will be the “Sleep All Summer” of my fall – both versions are equally addictive. The closing strings on The National’s version actually caused my chest to hurt.

Ashamed Of The Story I Told (Polaris cover) – The National
Ashamed Of The Story I Told – Polaris

With the backbone of Mark Mulcahy‘s solid songwriting, this covers album looks to be one of the best ones out in 2009 (tied with Dark Was The Night). The roster of artists featured is incredible: Thom Yorke, The National, Michael Stipe, Ben Kweller, Frank Black, Liz Phair, Vic Chesnutt, Elvis Perkins, and more.

So who is Mark Mulcahy and how did he inspire so many of my favorite artists? I first heard of him through Nick Hornby’s Songbook, when he wrote, “I would have missed out on people like Mark Mulcahy, whose first album, Fathering, I bought [on the recommendation of a music shop proprietor], and played repeatedly for months. ‘Hey, Self Defeater,’ the first track … made it onto just about every compilation tape I made that year.”

Mulcahy was also the artist behind the 90s band Polaris, from the TV show The Adventures of Pete & Pete. It was some of the best music ever to hit Nickelodeon — sugar-pop at its finest. I’ve re-upped the previous post with Mulcahy’s songs from the cassette tape you could get from saving Frosted Mini-Wheats barcodes. They are deceptively good for something from a kids show.

Since being introduced, I have come to respect Mulcahy as a literate first-class songwriter, and this song from his band Miracle Legion first appears simple, yet is laden with ache and meaning in the smallest of moments, like watching a sibling cut grass and the overwhelming monotony of life that can imply. The jangly effect of the original reminds me quite a bit of some of my favorite things about late-80s R.E.M or The Smiths. Thom Yorke’s version is distant electronica, layered all crisp and sad and perfect.

All For The Best – Miracle Legion

All For The Best (Miracle Legion cover) – Thom (and Andy) Yorke

Waking up, and the bed was made
no one looked me in the eye
the more I try, the more I cry
and it’s all for the best

Watched my brother cutting grass outside
sitting on the porch he told me
it’s a long way to go before we can rest
but it’s all for the best

You’re so beautiful it sings
on a lonely lazy morning
and when I see you rocking back and forth
whispering that it’s all for the best

One day the stone will roll away
soon you’ll see
you’re far away from home but never far away from me
and that’s all for the best

…and say you love me

Promise me, son, not to do the things I’ve done
walk away from trouble at the end of the day

Say you love me
say you love me

Let’s just say you love me

Devastating and beautiful. That song, and especially Thom’s alienated version of it, slays me.

You need to go snag a few more free songs from throughout Mulcahy’s career, and watch for Ciao My Shining Star: The Songs of Mark Mulcahy, out Sept 29th on Shout Factory. I really cannot wait.


  • I tweeted about this yesterday, great minds. This song is right up the National’s alley. Although I’m slightly disappointed that no one decided to take on “Everywhere”, I’m like you and cannot wait for this album. Thanks Heather!

    Neil — July 16, 2009 @ 5:02 am

  • The biggest “problem” w/ this CD is the lack of “Hey, Sandy” and “She is Staggering.”

    Pete & Pete in 2012–you know you want these two in charge of the country.

    CD — July 16, 2009 @ 1:39 pm

  • Those three may not be on the disc but I read they were releasing 20 more tracks online, so maybe one of those it there. I think Syd Straw is doing Hey Self Defeater.

    amigo — July 31, 2009 @ 7:43 pm

  • “You’re so beautiful *it’s sin*”

    Even Thom Yorke gets it wrong.

    steve — August 5, 2009 @ 1:35 pm

  • [...] feature 21 tracks and an additional 20 tracks will be released digitally.  Heather Browne over at I Am Fuel, You Are Friends gives the lowdown on Mulcahy’s history (along with a few choice audio samples) to accompany [...]

    Tribute Time « acme eclectic — August 6, 2009 @ 4:23 am

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Bio Pic Name: Heather Browne
Location: Colorado, originally by way of California
Giving context to the torrent since 2005.

"I love the relationship that anyone has with music: because there's something in us that is beyond the reach of words, something that eludes and defies our best attempts to spit it out. It's the best part of us, probably, the richest and strangest part..."
—Nick Hornby, Songbook
"Music has always been a matter of energy to me, a question of Fuel. Sentimental people call it Inspiration, but what they really mean is Fuel."
—Hunter S. Thompson

Mp3s are for sampling purposes, kinda like when they give you the cheese cube at Costco, knowing that you'll often go home with having bought the whole 7 lb. spiced Brie log. They are left up for a limited time. If you LIKE the music, go and support these artists, buy their schwag, go to their concerts, purchase their CDs/records and tell all your friends. Rock on.

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