Rarely does a television theme song become an earworm for a good reason. But The Rembrandts “I’ll Be There For You” theme-song for Friends never seemed to get old, despite opening the show every week for 10 seasons. Listening to it now it is a curious mix of old and what were then contemporary 1990s sounds. I mean, at the time the guitars sounded retro but from today’s vantage point they sound much less so. That’s where Dutch band The Kik come in with a cover version that dials up the Merseybeat and makes a number of other subtle changes to the performance of the song that gives it a more authentic retro 1960s vibe. Of course, the biggest change here is language – the band perform the song in Dutch. It sounds great and hey, it’s not like English speakers don’t know what the song is about after all these years. Beyond the language changes, the guitars immediately stand out as more jangly, the organ work is more to the fore in the mix, and the band omit the distinctive handclapping that defined the The Rembrandts’ version. Maybe it’s just me but these changes free the song from its limited use in the series, sounding more like a song proper rather than abridged snippet featured in the show. Even the seldom heard bridge shines.
“Ik Sta Klaar Voor Jou” appeared on The Kik’s album of cover tunes from 2017 entitled Hertaalt! (translation: Repeats!) which featured songs from the Beatles, Oasis, REM, The Kinks and more, all sung in Dutch. You can check out all the covers at their bandcamp page as well as some great new releases too.
So many bands deserve another turn in the spotlight. Beyond a certain level of talent and creativity, chart success (or not) can be a random, capricious thing. Thus shining a light on some of these amazing acts and their recordings is just the decent thing to do.
Our first spotlight candidate arguably had a pretty good run at fame. Their song “I’ll Be There For You” got played every Thursday night on American television for ten years. Yet, as The Rembrandts, the duo behind the song were largely dismissed as a one hit wonder. It was an unfair assessment for a number of reasons, not least of which because the band actually had an earlier, higher charting single. But here we’ll focus on their earlier incarnation as Great Buildings and the dynamite album they put out in 1981, Apart from the Crowd. Album opener “Hold On to Something” sounds like a hit to me with its high harmonies and sing-along chorus, coming on like a new wave Journey. From there the album rolls out with a host of radio friendly tracks, perhaps just a bit ahead of their time. For instance, “… And the Light Goes On” and “Dream That Never Dies” give off an ambience that would later work wonders for acts like The Outfield. And not surprising, songs like “Another Day in My Life” signal where the duo would go later with The Rembrandts. What this albums demonstrates is that any hit deficit afflicting this duo was not for lack of some quality trying.
When Brisbane, Australian band Up and Downs released The Sky’s In Love With You in 2017 the record sounded like an eerie, contemporary update on some classic 1980s indie acts. That shouldn’t have been surprising, they were a classic 1980s indie act! They’d had a minor hit in 1986 with “The Living Kind” but broken up in 1990. The compilation Out of the Darkness (Sleepless, Singles & Other Stories) has that song a host of others from their first three albums. Coming back together in 2007 the band did a few gigs over the next decade but only got back in the studio in 2017. But it was like they never left. The Sky’s In Love With You is a very listenable album but, for me, “True Love Waste” is the standout should-be single. The song ranks alongside anything from the first few Grapes of Wrath albums with its nice juxtaposition of acoustic and electric guitars, arranged with spare but at times surging effect. More recently the band put out an engaging cover of The Hummingbirds’ “Two Weeks With a Good Man in Niagara Falls.”
Listening through the back catalogue of Three Hour Tour I’d swear the band has got a magic box that can apply a Rubber Soul veneer to everything. It’s there in the vocal harmonies and the up-front placement of the acoustic guitars in mix. And it doesn’t hurt that main songwriter Darren Cooper has a knack for turning out pretty solid Beatlesque tunes. The band launched in the early 1990s with a number of solid albums and great singles, notably “Valentines Day” and “Next Time.” Then after a break of a few years they put out four albums between 2007 and 2018. The records have a consistent sonic and substantive quality, reminding me a lot of work from The Lolas and The Smithereens. So many great songs that could be featured but if forced to select a few highlights I’d go with the sterling title track from 2007 comeback album B-Side Oblivion, the oh-so-Beatles vibe on “Dead Reckoning” from 2010’s Looking for Tomorrow, the more mellow acoustic “Shifting Sands” from 2015’s Actions and Heroes, and “Theodore’s Last Call” from 2018’s You Never Know. But there’s plenty more pleasing poprock on these various long-players.
As far as I can tell The Galaxies put out just one album, 2008’s Here We Go! But what an album it was. The first four tracks on the record should come with a sticker-warning, they’re such effective ear worms. And here’s a left field observation: lead vocalist Bobby Cox really sounds REO Speedwagon’s Kevin Cronin to me. I’ll admit to having a soft spot for that mid-west American MOR-pop outfit’s catchier tunes so putting that sound into a more power pop setting works for me. For more contemporary points of reference, fans of The Rallies or The Spindles are going to like what they find here. Check out the magical weave of the hooky guitar lead line around the chorus of “Baby I Believe” or the slice of AM radio perfection that is “You Promised.” Another should be hit single is “Love Has Found Me,” a soft rock number elevated with some tasty jangle guitar. Or for a change, there’s a nice Paul Carrack pub rock groove to “An Ocean Between Us.” This is a full-play, leave-it-on-repeat long player.