He’s So Unusual

I’ve started to receive quite a few mp3s and requests from record labels and agents urging me to check out their artist’s latest offering. One that caught my eye (and ear) last week was a cover of Cyndi Lauper’s She Bop by a Melbourne singer-songwriter named Gerard Daley. Gerard started out as leader of The Stuntcar Racers before going solo, though he’s also been playing with The Wildflowers in recent times. His songs Human Shield and The Wrongness of Righteousness are included on the Songs of the Times page on Neil Young’s website and he numbers the Canadian among his musical influences in a list that also includes Bruce Springsteen, Tom Petty and Neil Finn. However, it is to the music of the colourful New Yorker Cyndi Lauper that he turns on his latest release and, in particular, her debut solo offering from 1983, She’s So Unusual

Lauper’s first album was unusual in that it was the first by a female performer to produce four top five hits in the US. I remember watching the music video of Girls Just Wanna Have Fun when it came out and being quite impressed by the song and the singer. Time After Time was a bit of a hit in Europe, but neither She Bop nor Money Changes Everything were as big as in the States. These four along with Prince’s When You Were Mine open the album and Gerard’s tribute follows the same sequence. Throughout the ten tracks on He’s So Unusual, he draws upon an eclectic mix of musical genres, most of which had been popular in the eighties. Lauper had borrowed the opening track Money Changes Everything from new wave band The Brains and Daley’s version has more in common with the original in its use of a grungy guitar sound. The guitar style is more like heavy metal on She Bop and even more so on the closing track, Yeah Yeah. It works on the former, but seems a bit too heavy and jarring on the latter. His take on When You Were Mine is the closest he comes to powerpop on the record as it combines guitar and keyboard to great effect

The version of Girls Just Wanna Have Fun is one of three acoustic numbers on the album. He seems to channel Johnny Cash’s version of Springsteen’s I’m On Fire on this reworking and it’s one of my favourite interpretation on the album. I had never heard the original versions of the album’s final three tracks before, but I much preferred the version of Witness to the equally acoustic I’ll Kiss You. Daley puts aside the guitars for the other two songs on the album. I wasn’t impressed by the sparse version of Time After Time that only uses voice and piano, but that could be because I’m not a big fan of the song. In contrast, All Through the Night is far more atmospheric as it adopts an electronic style. Gerard Daley is certainly no Cyndi Lauper and a few songs don’t work due to the wide range of styles that appear on the record. Nevertheless, the majority of He’s So Unusual works very well, making it an enjoyable listen and a fitting tribute to She’s So Unusual. The album has been released in Australia and New Zealand and is available at this iTunes link. It doesn’t appear to be available anywhere else yet, but you can find out more about Gerard at his myspace page and check out his version of She Bop below

She Bop (Cyndi Lauper cover) – Gerard Daley