At some point, I will launch a blog entirely devoted to cover songs – they’re a great way to hear musicians taking on melodies and choruses they’d never normally write, and there’s great pleasure to be had in the way a cover puts the stresses in other places: different lyrics, different parts of the melody. (Biffy Clyro’s cover of Rihanna’s Umbrella is a fantastic example of this, turning her robo-sung version’s futuristic, chromed power-chords into something earnest, shivering and down-to-earth.) In these DRM-clad times, there’s also something powerful in the way a cover says no-one owns a song, only a version of it. Most of all, covers affirm that there are times when other people’s words and feelings do better – or are more accurate, more precise, more powerful and timely – than your own.
Hypeful put up a list of the best cover songs of 2008, and while there’s a fair amount of crap on there1, and a couple degraded by dubious bootleg quality2 there are two fantastic covers well worth a download. The first is the Last Shadow Puppets’ cover of Rihanna’s SOS, done in their own creepy Ennio Morricone/Mad Men style. Best of the list though, is actually its number one – Vampire Weekend covering Fleetwood Mac’s Everywhere. Their vocals aren’t as smooth as the originals, but they’ve amped up the rhythm, stripped the sugary synths and it all fits beautifully.
The Vampire Weekend album was one of my favourites from last year, and is well worth picking up – plus, if you use this the link to get it from Amazon’s MP3 store I’ll get a couple of digital shekels.
1 Gnarls Barkley, who cover Radiohead’s ‘Reckoner’ using the medium of interpretive gurning.
2 Spoon, doing Panic! Should have been great, but the recording is very murky.