Next month, Tara Jane O’Neil is releasing a covers album called Songs For Peacock, meant as a mixtape for her late brother, who died last year. O’Neil’s last proper album came out in 2017. For this one, she’s going by just her initials TJO and she recorded it at home. It includes covers of songs by Boy George, Leonard Cohen, Siouxsie And The Banshees, INXS, and more.
“The iconic music on this album is not directly influential to me as an artist, they aren’t songs I’ve visited as an adult listener.,” O’Neil wrote in a statement.”This is not a stroll down memory lane or a memory book from a better time—there is no better time. And memory lane is a fake thruway on a map made of wind. This album is a mixtape, it is homage and it is distortion of sounds that were around in 1983, around the home I shared with my brother Brian.”
Today, she’s releasing her take on Bananarama’s “Cruel Summer,” which coincidentally was just covered by Evanescence a few days ago as well. O’Neil’s take is sparse and moody but still catchy. Check it out and read her full statement below.
Pop music is sticky. It can stick on you for 30 years without you knowing. It can stick you right back into a room or a car. Commercial radio is powerful like smell.
There was a mint green Honda Accord with a cassette player, and we drove it down Imperial Highway listening to Madonna for the first time. Even though we were listening to radio gold, it felt like a secret, not to be enjoyed with the family like my Olivia Newton John obsession could be. A lot of pop music that year felt the same. (The “ANT MUSIC FOR SEX PEOPLE” badge in the liner notes I covered over with a Sharpie. I can’t remember if we bought our own copies or if I defaced yours?) The mothers were driving station wagons and Celicas and moving their bodies to Neil Diamond and to Jane Fonda. There were soup can hand weights and ceremonial leotards you could wear to stave off middle age in the afternoon. (And unbeknownst to them, finance Jane’s leftist causes.)
Like being cast in amber, pop music encases an experience.
The iconic music on this album is not directly influential to me as an artist, they aren’t songs I’ve visited as an adult listener. This is not a stroll down memory lane or a memory book from a better time—there is no better time. And memory lane is a fake thruway on a map made of wind.
This album is a mixtape, it is homage and it is distortion of sounds that were around in 1983, around the home I shared with my brother Brian. Some songs aren’t from that year; Yoko Ono came before but reached me much later, Leonard Cohen was not yet a fixture in my life in the way Duran Duran was. But I can render them like Bauhaus or Yazoo. The songs fit in this relation. In 1983 I was not yet a musician, or a critic, I was an older sister but also a younger sister, and I marveled at everything my older brothers brought in from outside the walled suburban experiment of Orange County, California. In 1983, pop star drag included some measure of cross-dressing or bedraggle, and I wanted to wear those wrestling boots and sailor hats, I wanted that unevenness and its celebration. In 1983, young girls with strawberry blonde locks would go with a jet black chop and send their mothers into desperate frenzies trying to get their beautiful daughters back. Sometimes they would come to my house looking like Siouxsie and smelling of tea rose, wearing the Wham! slogan “Choose Life” on their chests. I was too young for the early ’80s to be my teenage trial-and-error times, and so better I can remember them.
Songs for Peacock began in the fall of 2019 in the wake of the sudden death of Brian. This recording, with a borrowed drum machine and simple synthesizer, was exposure therapy and a healing mechanism.
Q: What does a person do to stop feeling blue when love disappears?
A: I recorded these songs.
Brian sent me a mixtape a year after he moved out of the house. I only remember that Blondie, Aztec Camera and INXS were on it. I don’t know if he ever listened to Leonard Cohen or if he had an opinion about the song “Believe.” This mixtape I made is not a completist effort. It is a tribute to him who was, in 1983, the bee’s knees.
01 “Borderline Intro”
02 “The Crying Game”
03 “Cruel Summer”
04 “Everything Counts”
05 “Everybody Knows”
06 “Happy House”
08 “The Chauffeur”
10 “Move On Fast”
11 “No Summer’s Cold”
12 “Don’t Change”