Sunday, April 18, 2010

In the Ruins of the Hotel California

If you’ve never heard Moog Cookbook, you should. Maybe. I offer that statement knowing that half of everyone I’ve ever introduced to the band hated them on grounds that they wrecked good songs — boiled them down and used the stock to brew something kitschy and silly. The other half, however, agrees with me that there’s something special in how Moog Cookbook covers famous songs and warps them into new, odd tunes using only analog synthesizers, especially those of the Moog variety.

Think of this band’s songs as those amazing kind of leftovers — soup or stew or spaghetti sauce whose time in the fridge transforms them into something a little different than what you remember and possibly even better. Take Moog Cookbook’s cover of Lenny Kravitz’s “Are You Gonna Go My Way?” I don’t care for the original, though I’ll admit it’s catchy. In the version of the song on Moog Cookbook’s 1995 album, it becomes an electronic oompah ditty. Not what you’d expect — and an improvement, I’d say. I appreciate when any artist looks to the past and drags things back for a second go-around, but the way this band does it really wins me over. Even the name is a thoughtful shout-out to the past — according to Wikipedia, it’s a reference to the recipe book Moog’s Musical Eatery, written in 1978 by Shirleigh Moog, wife of the man who invented the synthesizer that bears his name.

My favorite of the band’s covers, however, would have to be “Hotel California.” Let’s step away from food metaphors for a moment. If The Eagles’ original “Hotel California” were a building, this remake of the song represents that building being torn down to its bare foundation and rebuilt in the strangest way it possibly could while staying confined to the original basic blueprint.

An aid for the ears:

As if it weren’t enough just to play the song using synthesizers, Moog Cookbook mashes “Hotel California” into other genres as the song plays along — first a twinkly harp melody reminiscent of the sixteen-bit Final Fantasy theme, then a circus music complete with animal sound effects, then disco, then something gothic and creepy with a synth harpsichord, then finally a homes stretch that manages to pull in both Hot Butter’s “Popcorn” and Del Shannon’s “Runaway.” It’s definitely something to behold, whether you like it or not. And it’s certainly not anything you would have expected to be pulled out of the original song.

This is my recommendation for the week: Something worth the few minutes it takes to listen to, if not to enjoy outright then at least something to bring about the reaction “Huh. Well, that’s something that happened.”

And yes, her name appears to be Doris.


  1. When the first verse started (and, heck, even a bit after), I could hear the beat for "Through the Fire and the Flames". Huh...

  2. In the synth harpsichord section, just for a minute it sounds like they're doing the music from the Disney Water Pageant at WDW. The bass is identical.

  3. ohhh man, starting at 3:43ish (the guitar solo) is amazing.

  4. Doris looks like a real life Peggy Hill from King of the Hill.

  5. TJF588: What is "Through the Fire and the Flames"? I am unfamiliar.

    Darren: Ooh. Good call. The Water Pageant/Main Street Electrical Parade theme is another Moog composition --- "Baroque Hoedown," by Jean-Jacques Perrey --- and would certainly have been familiar to the Moog Cookbook guys.

    Jonathan: Agreed.

    Ana: Agreed emphatically.