Song Sung Blue

Making music has allowed Randy Cordeiro to quit his job, travel the world, and buy a nice car. If only it were his music that Randy Cordeiro was making.

What are you laughing at, motherfucker?

To do Neil properly, you have to pinch the throat and reach down deep into the lungs, thereby producing the famous rasp that manages to be simultaneously nasal and resonant. You have to nail the vibrato, too -- the rolling hills of his eeeeeeee's -- and hit all the funny enunciations and line readings. "Like on 'Hello Again,'" says Cordeiro, drawing up. "I couulllllddddn't sleeeep at ahhhll," and then, haltingly, almost spoken, "tonight. I know it's laate. But it couldn't waaiit. Hellooooo." Some of the high notes, he adds, he can't even approach without the adrenalin of a live performance.

Cordeiro says he's always been a good mimic, and he plucks a guitar from the wall to demonstrate. In quick succession, he runs from a credible Jim Morrison ("Love me two times, babe") to a solid Johnny Cash ("I hear that train a-comin' ...") to a spot-on Neil Young ("Hey hey, my my"). But it was only recently, while working on Tijuana Strip Club's album, that he discovered his own voice. "It's a lower voice," he says, comparing his range to Cash's and Leonard Cohen's, whereas Diamond's is a bit higher. In fact, as far as his "original" work is concerned, Cordeiro goes so far as to omit Diamond entirely from his list of influences. "I'm not into copying anybody," he says, a funny thing for a professional impressionist to say. "It bugs me when I see bands completely -- from voice to music to lyric content -- completely ripping off their idols."

His true passion, indeed, is his own music -- he passes out Tijuana Strip Club CDs at Super Diamond shows -- and he's determined to help resurrect the city's dead original-music scene. Maybe he'll host an original-music night at the Kilowatt. "It's hard for original bands to get a full house," Cordeiro says. "Right now there are no trends. The music scene is dead for original bands, and it just sucks. ... I wanna do something for 'em again. I just think it's a little sad there are so many cover bands."

It's a nice sentiment, but I think he's underselling the value of truly good cover bands. You can laugh, but at their best they serve as a kind of breathing music criticism. A good pastiche like Super Diamond, one that points to the original but makes something entirely different, is worth a hundred shitty Cars rip-offs. Next week, Cordeiro will find himself at another House of Blues or an Irving Plaza, and it'll be the usual: winking sequins and blinking disco balls. It'll all be reflected light, sure, but it'll be light just the same.

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