Friday, February 15, 2008

Everyday is Like Sunday, Except for Blue Monday and Ruby Tuesday, and...Well, Friday I'm in Love: Weekly Mix #4

Cover versions are an interesting genre of music - they can go very badly, very well, or more often than not, sound too much like the original. When I was a teenager, I used to rant about how the original versions of songs were always best and how no one should be so audacious as to cover a song, especially one that was classic and well-loved already. Now that I'm older, I realize there are many covers that are just as good, sometimes even better, than the originals. In some cases, as with Police & Thieves by The Clash and Hallelujah by Jeff Buckley, the cover eclipses the original. I only just recently discovered that Ben Folds did a cover of Dr. Dre's Bitches Ain't Shit and that it's become massively popular (I'm obviously not up on my rap cover versions). While I'm not a fan of the original, nor this indie piano ballad version, it does make me think about why artists choose to cover others. Is it for tribute, for parody, for creating new meaning by recontextualizing?

Personally, the most effective cover versions make me hear a song in a whole new way and appreciate it far more than I did when I heard the original. I will admit that I would much rather hear the Scissor Sisters' version of Comfortably Numb over Pink Floyd's, and Brett Anderson's plaintive and distinctive vibrato puts a new gender-bending spin on Brass in Pocket. Sometimes the original artist would prevent me from liking particular songs, but in someone else's hands and voice, the song takes on a new, better life. While I would never listen to Nelly Furtado or Gwen Stefani of my own volition, I greatly enjoy the covers done by Bloc Party and Franz Ferdinand, respectively. Sometimes you're lucky and one of your favourite bands covers one of your favourite songs by another artist - in my case, Sneaker Pimps covered my all-time favourite Duran Duran song The Chauffeur.

Sad Kermit

It's always fascinating to see which kinds of songs a band chooses to cover - their choices can reveal influences or they can reveal admiration for another artist or they can introduce the covered artist to a whole new audience. Some are more prolific than others in producing covers - for example, Of Montreal has covered numerous songs on tour ranging from 60's British Invasion bands to current indie to glam rock. Some produce covers with the original band - Sandie Shaw and The Smiths come to mind (I didn't actually include any of Sandie Shaw's covers of The Smiths because I was dangerously close to making this mix a collection of Smiths cover versions - instead I included Shaw's fantastic version of Sympathy for the Devil). This weekly mix encompasses a range of cover versions from those who covered their contemporaries (Sandie Shaw, Franz Ferdinand, Dragonette, The Clash) to those who covered their predecessors (Placebo, The Futureheads, Sneaker Pimps, Camera Obscura) to that which is pure novelty and parody (Sad Kermit - for more information check out Hopefully, the one commonality for these covers is that they're all decent ones. This mix is called: Cover to Cover.

Sympathy for the Devil - Sandie Shaw (Original: The Rolling Stones)

What You Waiting For? - Franz Ferdinand (Original: Gwen Stefani)

20th Century Boy - Placebo (Original: T.Rex)

She Sells Sanctuary - Dandy Warhols (Original: The Cult)

Comfortably Numb - Scissor Sisters (Original: Pink Floyd)

The Boys - Dragonette (Original: Calvin Harris)

Hounds of Love - The Futureheads (Original: Kate Bush)

I'm Gonna Be (500 Miles) - Maximo Park (Original: The Proclaimers)

Say It Right - Bloc Party (Original: Nelly Furtado)

Boys Keep Swinging - The Associates (Original: David Bowie)

The Instrumental - Manic Street Preachers (Original: The June Brides)

Police & Thieves - The Clash (Original: Junior Murvin)

Spanish Dance Troupe - Of Montreal (Original: Gorky's Zygotic Mynci)

This Charming Man - Stars (Original: The Smiths)

The Boy With the Thorn In His Side - Jeff Buckley (Original: The Smiths)

The Chauffeur - Sneaker Pimps (Original: Duran Duran)

Brass in Pocket - Suede (Original: The Pretenders)

Creep - Sad Kermit (Original: Radiohead)

Disco 2000 - Nick Cave (Original: Pulp)

To See a Friend in Tears - James Dean Bradfield (Original: Jacques Brel)

Modern Girl - Camera Obscura (Original: Sheena Easton)

Weekly Mix #4 (Megaupload)


Polly-Anna Ashford said...

I really like your weekly mixes, and much respect for including SP - The Chauffeur! I heard Chris Corner's version before the original, and i like them both, but his version has some kind of magic about it that makes me listen in rapture for the whole song.

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