In the Post #49: Friendly Fires and Holy Ghost! Cover Each Other’s Songs

By on Tuesday, 16th February 2010 at 12:00 pm

One of the more unique songs to be reviewed recently on Steve Lamacq’s Roundtable on 6music is Friendly Fires‘s reinterpretation of ‘Hold On’, the dancefloor hit by New York City electro duo Holy Ghost! It’s only one half of a split single to be released in early March: Holy Ghost! returned the favour by covering Friendly Fires’s singalong ‘On Board’. When asked about it previously by BBC 6music News, singer Ed Macfarlane said that they had definite desire to do a reinterpretation of the Holy Ghost! track rather than simply a remix like the painstaking one he did for Phoenix‘s ‘Fences’.

This is no doubt unusual, having versions of big hits by two heavy hitters of the current electro dance scene on the same single, but what I like most about these reinterpretations is that these were recorded in mutual appreciation of each other’s music. That is, one band was fully aware that the other was going to put their personal loving stamp on one of their tracks and vice versa. Both acts also did instrumental versions of the the songs they covered; Holy Ghost! provided a dub mix of ‘On Board’ as well.

Speaking on Monday to Steve Lamacq by phone from his band’s East London recording digs, Macfarlane further explained that the idea came about when Friendly Fires ran into Holy Ghost! in Corsica last summer (presumedly at dance music festival Calvi on the Rocks). Macfarlane is a massive fan of the NYC duo’s work, so when Holy Ghost!’s Alex Frankel suggested the idea of doing covers of each other’s songs, he jumped at the chance. He considers both songs to be “really old” (released in 2007 – that’s old?) and is really happy that the project came to fruition. You can catch the interview on iPlayer until next Monday afternoon, the 22nd of February, here (fast forward about an hour and 19 minutes into the show).

Friendly Fires’s take of ‘Hold On’ starts shimmery as their own holiday anthem, ‘Paris’. With the pronounced bass lines, bouncy synths and in-your-face percussion (more agogô, more cowbell!), there’s no mistake that this is from the St. Albans trio. If it’s even possible, the chorus of “and hold tight, don’t make more plans / and don’t talk, don’t say no words / and be still, now move like this / and hold on, until the kiss…” seems even sexier than it was in the Holy Ghost! original. And the Fires’s version feels tighter, about a minute shorter than the original.

‘On Board’ has been made much more dancefloor friendly by Holy Ghost! Their track features backup singers credited as ‘the DFA Celestial Choir’; perhaps one of their members provided the female laugh when the song starts, reminscent of the laugh at the start of Duran Duran’s ‘Hungry Like the Wolf’. I’m really liking the echo effects on the vocals, the repeated “don’t stop!“s from the choir halfway through, and the wickedly funky underlying bass lines so much that I almost don’t miss the cowbell. It should also be noted here that this song marks one of the last songs !!! and LCD Soundsystem‘s late drummer Jerry Fuchs played on before his untimely death in November 2009.

After the cut: If you’re unfamiliar with either original, we’ve got you covered. You can watch Friendly Fires’s humourous video for ‘On Board’, then listen to ‘Hold On’ (as Holy Ghost! apparently don’t have an official promo for it).

Friendly Fires – ‘On Board’ promo video

Holy Ghost! – ‘Hold On’ (song only)

The split single of Friendly Fires’s ‘Hold On’ and Holy Ghost!’s ‘On Board’ will be released by XL Recordings on 08 March. The single will be available in both 12″ and digital formats.

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