Thursday, February 16, 2006

Music Review: Wierd Cover Songs

In recent years, the Cover Song has become sort of it's own genre of music. Bands such as Me First and the Gimme Gimmes or individuals such as Richard Cheese have made careers (or just side-jobs) as cover artists. Richard Cheese does piano lounge covers of rock, metal, and rap songs, such as Nine Inch Nails "Closer" and Kelis' "Milkshake", as well as the brilliantly placed "Down With The Sickness" by Disturbed, which made perhaps the most surreal horror scene in recent years in the new Dawn of the Dead movie. Me First is actually composed of famous punk singers from OTHER bands, who just do whatever song strikes their fancy, from Simon & Garfunkel, to the Gilligans Island Theme Song, to Van Morrison. They've developed a minor cult following, and soon will have to start touring just to keep the fans happy.

Others, though, just do the odd cover song and throw it in with their own original material. Few are as well known as Johnny Cash's recent three: Nine Inch Nail's "Hurt", Soundgarden's "Rusty Cage", and U2's "One". All three can be considered superior to the originals (although maybe a tie with "Hurt). I'd like to take some time to shine a light on some lesser-known cover classics.

Ben Folds Five - Bitches Ain't Nothing ... A cover of the Dr. Dre / NWA song about dating hookers, the piano-lead college-rockers lend a deeply disturbing tone to this song. With his soulful voice and lilting keys, Ben Folds doesn't make the crude lyrics sound the slightest bit forced (which is understandable, given that he swears profusely throughout his normal popular up-beat rock songs). Rap covers are becoming more common these days.

Deftones - No Ordinary Love ... One of the greatest progenitors of the Nu-Metal movement, the California-based Deftones were an obvious choise for a hip-hop song. Lead singer Chino Mareno's raspy, throaty, almost falsetto voice was meant for poetry, as three critically-acclaimed albums will attest to, but when you take away the thundering guitars, driving bass, and brilliant drumming, you're still left with a butt-load of talent. This cover of the romantic urban ballad by Sade fits absolutely perfectly with Chino's style of nervous anger and repressed emotion. Which makes the next review even stranger.

Deftones - Simple Man ... That's right, the Lynyrd Skynyrd southern rock hit, as covered by California's own alt-metal gods. They abandon their own crashing guitars, though, in favor of a more subdued and more faithful guitar rendition of the classic song, and Chino's voice hits heights of smoothness and soul rarely seen in his own music. If not better than the original, it has been perfectly adapted to the current generation, and the message of life-long happiness is not lost in the translation.

Big Sugar - Let It Ride ... A Canadian blues-rock cover of a Canadian rock song? More interesting than it sounds! Gordie Johnson's guitar commands a whole lot more attention than any of the instrumentation of the original song, but it never drowns out the lyrics, and the marching-beat riffs seem to make you want to hop in a car and let it ride, too. A perfect choice for the hard-rocking funky-blues white-boy guitar god from the praries.

Metallica - Turn The Page ... Perhaps the greatest Metallica song in recent years, this heavy-metal take of the soulful Bob Seger classic of the loneliness of the road seems to take the whole world away (if you have enough power in your sub-woofer... this song has BASS!) Hetfield's voice gets its first decent workout in years, and they remembered what song gave them their first taste of ultra-fame... the quiet, restrained, angry and lonely metal guitar and the huge, almost operatic sound of the entire band working together. God, I love this song.

Foo Fighters - Baker Street ... Well-distorted through old-style tube-amps, this song is not changed too too much from the original. It's louder, it's heavier, but for a relatively simple cover, the Foos make it sound like their own. There's not much I can say to this, other than I appreciate it when a band takes the time to cover a song that they can pull off... which brings us to perhaps my favorite.

Mayfield Four - Inner City Blues ... There's not many rock bands with the balls to cover Marvin Gaye, let alone one of Marvin's lesser known works, let alone have the vocal talent to pull the whole thing off. The voice sounds errily identical to that 70's soul legend, but the lap-steel and rock bass give the song a more angry, less despairing feel. It gives you a sense of hope, rather than a sense of failed familiarity, and thats something a great cover should do: be the same song, with the same words, and the same music, and yet come accross so different, because the band has made it it's own.


Anonymous lostdwarf said...

Damn, now I need to find some of these songs. I love "Let it Ride" and I think the remake is the version I've been hearing. Either way, awesome song.

But I respectfully disagree with the 2 versions of "Hurt" running neck and neck. Johnny Cash's version kicks ass. His voice was MADE for that song.

1:02 PM  
Blogger Mighty Jalapeno said...

This is true, but some of us also happen to like the strange, haunting music of Trent Reznor's version, which is more about quiet anger, than Johnny's, which is more about sadness and loss. So respectfully disagree all you want... I'm still right.

1:32 PM  
Anonymous lostdwarf said...

Hey, what do you think of Korn's version of Word Up?

2:24 PM  
Blogger Throkmorton said...

And how dare you not review Willie Nelson's cover of Cowboys Are Frequently Secretly Fond Of Each Other?

10:58 AM  
Blogger Mighty Jalapeno said...

Because that was the catalyst for this review, but I had not heard the song yet.

2:36 PM  
Anonymous MartianIceQueen said...

Waaay late on this, but I definitely prefer the original version of Hurt. Also, have you heard the lounge version of "Smells Like Teen Spirit" by Ragnar Bjarnason?

1:19 PM  
Anonymous Mothshade said...

You haven't lived until you've heard Devo's version of Head Like a Hole. Da mosh pit be bouncin' yo!

7:02 AM  
Anonymous Mothshade said...

Oh, and Rasputina does a bitchin' cover of Wish You Were Here by Pink Floyd. Cellos rule!

Probably not as good as Class of 99's version of We Don't Need No Education from The Faculty...but a nice spin nonetheless.

7:45 PM  

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