The Grammar Club – Code Monkey ByJoCo •July 8, 2008 Ah, so this is how it feels to know you’ve finally made it: The Grammar Club has covered Code Monkey and put it up on thesixtyone. Their skills are such that it now sounds to me like it might be a real song or something. How did they do it!? Comments Mojo says Sounds great. Doctorsoul says Oooh, they went really heavy on the autotune there. Call me old fashioned... but I prefer Cher doing that ;) M_pony says Man, this is some really good stuff. How long until we get to see Paul and Storm doing the rapping part during a live show? :D MitchO says Am I supposed to know who these people are? :p Matt Mayfield says Yeah, it sounds like a "real song..." The vocals have been Autotuned within an inch of their lives, the dynamics have been smashed to hell for the sake of loudness, and the drums have had all their humanity Beat Detective'd out of them. The rap section is kind of interesting... haven't decided how I feel about that yet. JoCo, please don't ever release anything as over-polished as this. One of the main reasons I love your songs so much is that they sound so organic and real, and they breathe with dynamic range and excellent human pitch as opposed to expressionless cyber-pitch. And you use compression on the mix buss for good, not evil. CoderBlues says The original is so much better. Grondzilla says Truth be told JoCo I far prefer your version to this cover. The vocal fellow for these folks is not nearly as pleasant to listen to as you. Flattering? Yes. Necessary? Meh. p.s. I'm pissed that I waited to long and was screwed by sold-outness at the Lula Lounge...go back to the Big Smoke soon OK? JoAnn in VA says How do I describe my feelings towards rap music added to a song I normally love....Root canal sans novocaine comes close. Bleh. Next time you link to rap, put a big warning sing up first please. Now I need to go wash my brain or something. Or listen to you sing it properly. Thomas Shaddox says Sounds like much less of a song than the original. I can't tell what this cover is supposed to be. Electronic? Hard rock? Rap rock? I'm not familiar with The Grammar Club, so this could be their usual style, but uggh, sounds pretty awful. Not to mention needlessly changing the melody, messing up a couple of chords, and as everyone else has mentioned, autotuning and compressing over the top. I suppose you gotta change something when you cover a song, but the covers I like are those that decide on a genre and redo the song in that new genre. Only part I liked was the synth arpeggios at the end. Regardless, you should be flattered at the nod, although I "discovered" you on the net a while ago, and have never heard of TGC, so imo you're already more famous :-) Veridies says I really don't hear what everyone is so annoyed about. I like your version better, but this is definatly going on my iPod. Kayla says Hey, I can't wait to see you in Michigan on Thursday. I love your music, and I'm really excited to see you live. :D Garayur says The original is much better. Doug says There seem to be some pretty mixed responses to the song, here. I'll say that I enjoyed it, and I certainly don't mind a little geek-rap, but it is definitely not JoCo. Chris says Oh, I greatly approved of it. I get that the Grammar Club certainly won't be everyone's cup of tea, but for those that like it, it's a good cover of an excellent song. Mojo says I agree Chris, I'm not sure why it's getting such mixed responses. High production quality is a GOOD thing in my book. Mr. Enjoyment VonPleasure says IMO, the original song and the cover are both excellent. Sure, taste may favor one version over the other, but giv'em credit, it's a strong cover. snyder says thanks mr. coulton! we do what we can. also thanks to joann in va for lots of laughs Gina says I liked it! Hey Mikey! Dawn Hewitt says I relly liked it, but I am a fan of covers and of hybrid styles. Also, in the interest of disclosure, I am already a fan of both Jonathan Coulton and Grammar Club. So, it's not surprising that I liked it :) Melanie says Never heard of Grammar Club before this, but I think they did a pretty good job of pulling it into another genre. However, I still like the original better. Stephen Cosgrove says I wouldn't switch the radio off if it came on, but the original wins. Ansel says Yeah, it's not bad as far as covers go but the original is better. Jonathan, yours has a soul. Theirs has a mixer and synth. If they wanted to make the song into a pseudo rock piece they could have changed the pace or timing but as it was they seem to have taken your song, added a drum line and then tweaked the crap out of it. It was nice but not, by any means, as good as the original. Anonymous says Dude, it sounds like a real song because they started with a real song, and then put unnecessary rap in the middle. Marcy says I too prefer the original, but this isn't bad. It's certainly flattering to the composer....... Sean says It sounds like a "real" song because of how over-produced it is. The reason I started listening to you was because your sound is so different from what I normally get bombarded with. So with that as the measuring stick, yeah, the cover sounds real. And I like it no more or less than anything else on the top-40 stations I only listen to when I forget my iPod. Sean says Oh, and having said that, I do love the "Miko remix" of Code Monkey, so it's not simply a case of thinking that anything but the original sucks. The cover is simply so-so. Andrea says I like the remix enough to download it and put it on my iPod, but I like the original better. Luke M says Great, now it sounds like Smash Mouth. Someone call Katzenberg! Pretty much what Matt said. Creature SH says I usually don't comment here, but.. Damn, did that suck. Sounds like they tried to fancy it up and destroyed all that was good about the song. Doctora says I am not sure how you are supposed to "improve" on one of the best songs ever....putting rap in the middle and overproducing it to hell does CHANGE it, but not for the better. The original is hands down better. The remix lost all of the longing and pain and irony of the original. And just JoCo with a guitar makes for a REAL SONG any day of the week. Bill says Hmm, I wonder if all of the Grammar Club songs will sound like that after Glenn Case left. If so that make me very sad. Z. says Damn, I guess I'm in the minority here, but I enjoy the cover. Of course, I also know who the Grammar Club are. GlennCase says Wow, I am a little surprised by some of the negative responses. Well, actually I WAS surprised until I started thinking about it a little more. You can never please everyone anyway, but there might be something more to this. Granted, I may be way off base, but it does seem like some people become protective over artists they find 'before they became famous', especially when they are as creative and original as Jonathan Coulton. I hadn't considered this before, but maybe the polished sound of the cover too closely resembles what people are used to hearing on the radio, and some equate the word 'radio' with 'generic'. It becomes "How DARE you cover a song we love, and make it sound more like songs we don't even like." It reminds me of the term 'sold out' being thrown around once an artist achieves a larger audience, or better production values. Ingrid Michaelson has been dealing with the 'sell-out' label as of late, but she's not really doing anything that she hasn't been doing all along. She just has a bigger audience. I hope JoCo never has to go through a 'He sold out!' phase, but maybe it will be a good thing if it happens. It will mean that he's making the proverbial 'phat bank'. Let it be known that I am using quotation marks all too often here. You probably already noticed that. I do think it's funny that someone was concerned that the Grammar Club will sound worse without me based on hearing 'Code Monkey', because 'Code Monkey' was the last thing I recorded with the group and I'm fairly certain that some of my parts are still in there! I can't tell for sure, because Adam! is so good at mixing and mastering that I can't always identify the parts that I played. Personally? I love how it turned out. Fact is, the remaining four members of the group are very talented, and they might actually sound BETTER without me involved. ROCK! Glenn Case Bill says I didn't mean to make it sound like the Grammer Club is going to be bad without Glenn in it. The cover sounded a little different from the other songs on the Bremelanotide album. I'm sure I'll get used to the new sound, it was just a bit of a shock hearing this when I woke up. Serene Vannoy says It's fun. The new content is fun, too, and I liked the song and downloaded it. But it's not better than your version, or more "real-song"-ish, to my ears. SevinPackage says @Glenn Case: You should be happy with the way things turned out. Covers can be difficult to make your own, and the people who have listened to the original hundreds of times are always the toughest critics. BTW, are you moving on to a solo project, or another band, or what? @Everyone else: I first heard TGC in the free album known as Old Nerdy Bastard, which can be found here: http://www.hipsterplease.com/2008/05/old-nerdy-bastard.html Their original stuff is pretty smart, and catchy. Listen with an open mind, and an eye on the lyrics page (Beefy's pretty quick with the rhymes!). JoAnn in VA says Actually I did like their version of Code Monkey..untill it got to the rap section. Sorry guys, when I was in the Arny I learned to hate the stuff. Others in the barracks would blast rap music until 11 pm every night, and any other time they had free time. Back then the "get a pair of headphones" type policies hadn't been invented yet, and everyone who liked rap bought a huge speaker system and would have one blasting in his room and the second one pointed out of his window so he could share it with everyone for about a mile around. Multiply that by no two playing the same thing at the same time and it was a form of musical torture to me. Not that I ever considered it music... Glad the earlier comment cracked you up though! Shael Riley says That's actually Glenn singing the high harmonies on the chorus, and playing the acoustic. He's totally in this song. A lot. Thank you for listening. Zoobalee Zoo says no talent hacks. invid says Interesting to see the dichotomy in the responses here. I thought it was kind of neat, if admittedly a bit generic. Not a bad effort overall, but it does kind of make the song (barring the lyrics) seem like something you would hear in the background of a made-for-TV movie. Luke M says It's not so much that I don't like it because it has "better" production values, it's that the production values that are currently the industry standard, and hence sound "professional" or "polished" to people who don't know better, involve shitty dynamics. The arrangement is also full of contemporary rock cliches, of which the rap segment is just the most obvious. I'm glad Jonathan feels flattered and I have no ill will toward Grammar Club (never heard of them before, but apparently they are successful, so congratulations and thanks for plugging JoCo), but the notion that the cover sounds more like "a real song" is a perfect example of what's wrong today with the music industry on the creative side. Much more here. Matt Mayfield says Glenn, Thanks a lot for your comments. I'd like to address the idea of "high production value" vs. "overproduced." The mix and mastering of the track, for a typical modern release, are as well done as one could expect. Especially with the mastering, though, the way things are done nowadays seriously detracts from the enjoyment of the music in a way that is measurable. Your engineer did the best they could to make the mix sound good within the limits of the ridiculous loudness expectations of the market. Physics and psychoacoustics make this a losing battle, though. Put "Code Monkey" into a DAW with a peak/RMS level meter and you will see that, for most of the song except the intro, the RMS level rarely drops below about -7.5dBFS. That means that there is at MOST a 7.5dB difference between the loudest snare drum transient, and the average level of the music. JoCo's version has about -14dB difference, which makes the track quieter than The Grammar Club's, but it *breathes* more and most of us actually do have volume knobs. Or we play music on iPods that have Sound Check, so a smashed-to-hell, LOUD LOUD LOUD mix is just turned down anyway ("Wimpy Loud Sound"), and then JoCo's originals and the 60s-80s commercial music stand out as sounding much more punchy and exciting. Click the website linked to in my name above this post for a non-technical explanation of this on YouTube. Mastering engineer Bob Katz also put a high quality version of that video on his company website under "Other Articles." It is not usually the mastering engineer's fault because he/she is under pressure from the record company, the band, and/or other people to make the mix "competitively" loud. This is a serious problem that turns an interesting arrangement with dynamic contrast, into a flat, boring (though LOUD) mush. Look up "Loudness War" for more on this. Secondly, if Autotune had been used much more sparingly I would enjoy the cover a lot more, as well. For example, if JoCo does use pitch correction, I can't hear it. For the sake of argument, let's say he does use it - if so, he only uses it on a note or two here and there, not by putting Autotune in Auto mode. That's the way it should be used, in my opinion. But on GC's version I can hear it locking the voice onto the notes, without even listening for it, and it is extremely grating and distracting. A final analogy - if you look at photos of celebrities on magazines, the "things that make them weak and strange have been engineered [photoshopped] away." In other words, in the fantasy land of glossy periodicals, everyone has perfect skin and teeth, symmetrical facial features, etc. It's boring! Look at people in real life and they have interesting qualities (imprefections) about them. The Grammar Club remix is like a photoshopped celebrity with boringly perfect skin and features. JoCo's mixes are like sneaking out to the woods with a real live, imperfectly beautiful person and celebrating the First of May together. Luke M says Autotune is the work of the devil. Spiff says I don't see why everyone freaked out. These guys did what anyone (like me, for instance) does, which is to take the original and add their own flavor of newness to it. The rap part's got some clever rhymes and fits well with the rest of the song as they presented it. Acting like they killed a baby just because you didn't prefer their take on the original is a little lame, IMO. It wouldn't have killed all you rude bastards to have said, "not my cup of tea, but thanks for letting us listen". You know, be nice like your momma told you. ;) Lhyzz says They sound like Blink-182 -- and I don't mean that in a good way. I much prefer your version, Jon. It's not filled up with thumping bass and synthesized instruments. It's REAL. Colleenky says Amen, Spiff! Tindomiel says Natch, most of us here are inclined towards the original. But I'm sort of surprised by how negative a lot of the negative reactions are, especially regarding the rap section. I thought the rap interlude was a pleasant surprise, although I think there could have been a better transition from the rap section back to the song, maybe give it a chance to wind back down to the spare arrangement at the start of the last verse. Of course, I'm also a nerdcore fan, so this is still in line with my tastes (not that there's much music that I won't listen to, really). I thought it was neat. Beefy says I just wanna thank Jonathan for digging it enough to link us. You're amazing. And I'd also like to thank everyone for the kind words and for everyone else who didn't so much dig it but gave it a listen in the first place. We <3 you all. I've also decided that I speak for everyone lol Cambiata says I actually did like the cover. But I do boo the autotuning. A pox upon you, autotuner! Jason C. Brand says I like both versions. Both are on my Zen. So there :P Beefy... good job,man! Andrea says I agree with Spiff. Yeah, you can't "ruin" a song by covering it in a style some people don't like. It's not like making a cover erases the original from all our hard drives and CD's. :) I like the cover, but then I am not nearly as rap-resistant as some folks. I like some rap, in small doses. Luke M says @ Spiff Actually, my momma told me to 1) tell it like it is 2) stick it to the Man 3) never pay retail Word. Luke M says Also, Grammar Club doodz, no hard feelings I hope. Some us of have a bit of a beef with current "professional" production standards, i.e. that they suck. It's nothing personal. Beefy says Well clearly we love Code Monkey bunches as well, we just did it in our own little style which works for us. if it's not for you though I'm sure joco isn't going to change his style because of us lol Matt Mayfield says Luke M: You nailed it! :-) And Jonathan, if you get around to reading these comments, I noticed that your version of Code Monkey is mono. Was that intentional? I guess if most people don't notice something that obvious, there's little hope of anybody caring about other audio production-related issues... Tim Drake says I prefer the cover to the original. Booya. Suck on that, fanboys. Spiff says Awesome. :) GlennCase says Beefy's got it absolutely right. I feel fortunate that JoCo liked the cover enough to mention it in this blog, and even if some people didn't like what they heard I still appreciate that they even took time to give it a listen. @Bill: Thank you for clarifying. I just wanted to make sure to go on record that I wish my ex-bandmates well, and I have no doubt that they will do just fine without me, and possibly better. @SevinPackage: I'm basically focusing on being an internet geek musician that makes music in my basement, and puts it online for anyone that cares to hear it. I'll also play the occasional live show. @JoAnn in VA: It's unfortunate that people have killed an entire genre for you, and my first inclination is to try to recommend some hip hop that you might like. Perhaps you might check out 'Breakfast on the Moon' by SumKid if you have 3:15 to kill, and you're curious to see if a track can change your mind. @Matt Mayfield: Thank you for the link and the insight. In the past I've actually watched some clips and read some articles about the loudness war, and while the concept does make sense to me, I'm not ashamed to admit that most of it is way over my head. I refer to mixing and mastering as my personal kryptonite, but hopefully I'm improving with time. Adam! tends to make mixes that sound wonderful to me, but I guess it's all subjective anyway. Seriously, you guys. Thanks again for all of the feedback. Positive and negative. ROCK! Glenn Case Mojo says Correct me if I'm wrong, but judging by how obvious the autotune is in the cover, I'm going to guess the "locking" sound was intentional, a la Cher-lite. It's just part of the sound. Personally, I loved how they managed to take this great song and cover it without copying it; they made it sound quite different from the original, and very unique overall, as per TGC's style (most people who say this sounds like the stuff on the radio don't listen to the radio much. It doesn't. That's a knee-jerk reaction to the dynamics and the overall "polished" feel. Refer to the "sell-out syndrome.") One listener who commented here was frustrated because he couldn't identify what genre it was. It's a very clever melding of several; that should tip you off to how unique this cover is, along with most of TGC's material, which I'm now listening to for the first time thanks to this introduction. Then again, I have an open mind, and it seems not many people do when it comes to music. Church says I liked it, anyway. But then, I'm a fan of all of the above. (That seems to be a trend in the comments.) Matt Mayfield, what would you do with stereo on a track like Code Monkey? (Serious question--I'm not an audio guy.) Matt Mayfield says Glenn: Thanks! Great web site by the way. Mojo: You're probably right that it was intentional. Either way, I don't care for that sound. High production value can exist without gratuitous Autotune and overcompression. If they offered a version with less pitch correction, and without the Sony Inflator, Waves L2, or whatever they used to suck the life out of the tune for the sake of zombie-like incessant loudness, I'd enjoy it. Church: Basically, every other Jonathan Coulton song I've heard is stereo. I'm guessing that he mixed the track in stereo, but then left a mono setting on by mistake when he exported it to MP3. It's been practically unheard of, since like 1970, to release music in mono. Terisa says I NEVER thought I’d say this, but.....um......yep, it’s better than the original. Sorry JoCo. :( You are still eminently more fuckable than they'll ever hope to be, if that's any......oh, never mind. Gina says I've been listening to it quite a bit, and I *still* like it (hey mikey), but I'm having trouble making out some of the rap part. I guess that is my usual trouble with rap. Lyrics anywhere? Beefy says for Gina and anyone else who might be curious: Code monkey like his home row and root beer Code monkey like the staff, but he don't like to work here And he couldn't imagine himself with reckless abandon To ask the girly on a date yo just to see what would happen, but He's here to get paid, not here to feel great So quick to make the sky fall on a programming primate I said he should quit it, get a new job in a minute Should make a change and he didn't, he said shut up and forget it now A sapien with an algorithm and the code monkey knows how to close But look he's looping the code! And he feels from his head to his toes He knows you're on the internet showing your friends all of his videos He's always at work, he's always tongue tied Should take her on a test drive, rock it like a stage dive But he's all in his cube, in his cell, in his cage And he's feeling all down, and depressed, and enraged Then he sees her face and everything goes numb Little monkey always holding out for things to come Luke M says I just want to say again: Thanks Grammar Club for doing this cover and for taking our tech-geek bitchery in such good humor. I've been obsessing over the loudness war recently after comparing the LP mix of the Mudcrutch album to the wide-release CD version, which just once again hammers home the "fact" (to me) that current production standards are head-up-the-ass wrong. But you clearly put thought and effort and talent into your cover and I respect that. I propose that to settle this issue, JoCo should record a minimalist, sensitive cover of "Caress Me Down." That is all. Bill says Okay, I must have been in a terrible mood (or just woke up.) when I listened to the cover. Anything I said before was due to being in a sad depressed soda mood and not the nice happy shake mood I'm usually in. The song sounds great and I didn't know what I was saying. If this doesn't teach me to save judgements until later, nothing will. killsaly says Wow thats a lot of Grammer Club hate? And even going as far as questioning their use of dynamics? What are you guys a bunch of studio engineers? I think the Grammer Club has an excellent sound. It is no where near "polished" as something like Britney. It sounds good, and is loud. So what? You want your mixes to be as loud as possible, and you want to have enough room for all the seperate elements to breath. This track and all of theirs did just that. Great job guys. It sounds great and IMHO, better than the original. Aero says Emotionless, no spirit. Not bad otherwise, but kills it imo, sorry. :X Luke M says You want your mixes to be as loud as possible Pope says I was a fan of The Grammar Club before I heard of Jonathan Coulton, so I knew exactly what to expect upon being informed of this cover (I found out about it through the VGMix.com forums). I think it's great. The auto tune is simply their style, and I find the rap section to be a good addition. If you liked this cover, you should go the http://www.thegrammarclub.com and get their free ep. It is some excellent Nerdcore. Gina says "Code monkey like his home row and root beer" Really, it's home grown, right? You can say... Thanks for the lyrics. Joseph says Wow, commenter's are rough. I thought that it was an great remake of a great song. Joseph says On a side note, if you don't want to have to sign up at the site linked to in the original post to get the song. You can get it as a free mp3 off of the The Grammar Club's home page. http://thegrammarclub.com/ Cale says You know, I will say one thing that I definitely prefer from theirs. The half-time groove in the drums during the verses. Definitely gives some punch. Syn says Having been to shows of one of the members of the Grammar Club (the rapper, Beefy) I have to say that although this comment is a year behind, I loved their remix of your song. And yes, no remix is ever as good as the original. But I'm glad they got mentioned. They deserve it. Jace says I wish I knew who The Grammar Club were when I saw this entry last year. I've been listening to them a lot lately (as well as Shael Riley's other stuff) and I love what I've been hearing. And this cover is great. GeneShark says Hey, a lovely year old post to comment on. I've been a fan of nerdcore/chiptune/VGM for a while, and was recently pointed onto Shael Riley's Toybox album, moving onto TGC and Double Ice Backfire. Lovely stuff, and an excellent version of Codemonkey, if not everybody's cup of tea. It's certainly mine.