By Christian Lipski
The Stone Age was followed by the Bronze Age, which was followed by the Iron Age. With every new movie that Hollywood releases, with every mashup video on YouTube or “greatest hits” tour by a reunited band, it becomes more and more clear that we are currently living in the Age of the Remake. This is not always the sign of a lack of ideas, fortunately. Often it’s a way to make people look at something in a whole new light.
Listeners may recognize Scala & Kolacny Brothers from the movie The Social Network, which featured their haunting cover of the Radiohead song “Creep.” Their new self-titled CD is their debut in the US, and they obviously hope to capitalize on the film’s great success here.
The group’s concept is pretty much a novelty: a choir of Belgian girls singing covers of popular songs, accompanied by a piano. But the idea can work: the only thing I remember about the mid-90s Ellen Degeneres movie Mr. Wrong is the beautiful choral version of “I Want To Know What Love Is.” Baz Luhrmann’s “cover” movie Romeo + Juliet featured a version of “When Doves Cry” that made a dove out of me, if you get my drift. The secret in making this work is in the arrangement and the song choice, and the Kolacny brothers have done a fine job.
The cover songs’ arrangements are simple in the extreme, being for the most part voice and piano. The choir is very well blended, matching vowels expertly as one would expect from a professional group. The piano provides enough additional emotion to each piece without taking over. In all, very well-executed.
The CD is a collection of songs from their career, released in Europe as Circle, but for the US release they made some obvious changes to appeal to our audience. It does enhance enjoyment of the songs if you are familiar with the original performance, of course. They have added the live version of “Creep,” the song from The Social Network‘s soundtrack, swapped out U2′s “Bad” for their better-known “With Or Without You,” and likewise switched “Lithium” by Nirvana for “Smells Like Teen Spirit.” It’s understandable that “California Dreamin’,” though still a good tune, would be deemed a bit ancient for an American debut, and “Suzanne” by Leonard Cohen isn’t a national favorite, but why leave out the popular “Viva La Vida” by Coldplay? One wonders if there weren’t issues with US rights to some of these as well.
The omissions are made more confusing by the inclusion of three original songs by the group, none of which sound much like the other tracks, nor like anything that a US audience tends to purchase. Though songs like “Our Last Fight” and “Masquerade” are lovely and dark, their electronic backing tracks strip them of their power. The Kolacny brothers would have done well to mimic the production of the cover tunes.
Scala & Kolacny Brothers is an excellent introduction to the group’s work, and contains some of their most moving performances. I can certainly see them continuing to be called upon in Hollywood, and I wouldn’t be surprised to hear these tracks playing in the background at an upscale restaurant. But the best way to experience these voices is right up close, either with headphones or in person. Scala & Kolacny Brothers are performing at South by Southwest on March 18, and will conduct a US tour in April, including a stop at the prestigious Coachella music festival on April 15.
The album by Scala & Kolacny Brothers was released March 15 through ATCO Records. For more on the group, please check out their official site.
Thu-Apr-7: Vancouver, BC at Commodore Ballroom
Fri-Apr-8: Seattle, WA at The Showbox Sodo
Sat-Apr-9: Portland, OR at Roseland Theatre
Mon-Apr-11: San Francisco, CA at The Independent
Tue-Apr-12: San Francisco, CA at The Independent
Thu-Apr-14: Los Angeles, CA at El Rey Theatre
Fri-Apr-15: Indio, CA at Coachella
Wed-Apr-20: Boulder, CO at Boulder Theatre
Fri-Apr-22: Minneapolis, MN at First Avenue
Sat-Apr-23: Chicago, IL at Park West
Mon-Apr-25: Washington, DC at 9:30 Club
Tue-Apr-26: Philadelphia, PA at The Trocadero
Wed-Apr-27: Boston, MA at House of Blues
Thu-Apr-28: New York, NY at Webster Hall
Sat-Apr-30: Toronto, ON at The Opera House
Sun-May-1: Montreal, QC at Club Soda