Long live rock, I need it every night

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Covers, uncovered

What makes a good cover? My careful analysis has narrowed it down to a few key elements:

  • High threadcount
  • Soft feel, like a puppy’s belly
  • Lack of mysterious crusty stains, odor of vomit
  • Generous surface area, so as to be used as an effective shroud, should you die in bed
Leon: E-jack-a-late?

But what are the elements of a good cover song? Now that’s more difficult to pin down. I reduce a good cover to two points only—the cover can’t be too similar to the original, but neither can it be too different. So there’s a lot of latitude in between those two poles.

FAIL: “All My Friends,” Franz Ferdinand (orig. by LCD Soundsystem)

In my opinion, this version of the song is too close to the original. I still like it because it’s one of my favorite songs being covered by one of my favorite groups. Actually, now that I think about it, maybe it is good. Can’t make up my mind.

PASS: "Nowhere Man,” Low (orig. by The Beatles)

I can make up my mind about this one, it’s perfect. It’s no surprise that The Beatles are the world’s most covered band. Low’s version is stripped down, spare, and simplified, and completely changes the tone and meaning of the original. The Beatles were optimistic that the nowhere man could somehow rejoin the world, but Low doesn’t seem as sure about that.

FAIL: “Billie Jean,” Chris Cornell (orig. by Michael Jackson)

No, not really. Maybe if Cornell had rocked it out and added some sort of yeah-I-fucked-her-and-knocked-her-up, what-of-it? feel to this, then it may have worked, but this just never gets off the launching pad. Butchered.

PASS: “Smooth Criminal,” Alien Ant Farm (orig. by Michael Jackson)

How does it feel to be a third tier band in an execrable genre? Don’t know, but if I run into any members of Alien Ant Farm, I’ll ask them. Odds are I’ll never see them given that I avoid loitering around the various men’s rooms of the Port Authority. However, I include this cover in contrast to Cornell’s. Not bad. See? When in doubt, do a rave up.

FAIL: “Alone Again Or,” The Damned (orig. by Love)

There’s nothing separating this cover and the original. So little difference that until about four years ago I didn’t realize that this one wasn’t the original. Still sounds good but given two identical things I’ll prefer the one that came first, I guess.

PASS: “Black Steel,” Tricky (orig. by Public Enemy)

This is a cover of Public Enemy’s “Black Steel in the Hour of Chaos.” Again, when in doubt, speed it up and rock out. But don’t get too creative with it—there’s a reason the original was so popular.


Jumbo Slice said...

I've always loved that Tricky song, but it never clicked that it was a PE cover. It's a whole different interpretation. I actually enjoy the Tricky version more.

I think the FF song is a push, not a pass or fail. It's good but not as good as the original and it doesn't really takes the song anywhere new.

Jumbo Slice said...

Who's Leon?