Under Covers of Darkness: Three types of cover version that shouldn't exist
- By Nick Hagan -
- May 21, 2012
Long associated with buskers trotting out god-awful renditions of 'Creep', the awesome power of the cover version in music seems destined to be forever under-appreciated.
Yet at its very best a band's interpretation of someone else's song can reinvigorate a great tune (Muse's take on Nina Simone's 'Feeling Good') or even improve on it (Jeff Buckley's ubiquitous 'Hallelujah', arguably Ryan Adams' 'Wonderwall').
However, the covers roulette wheel can be a cruel mistress, and for every blinding reimagining of an old favourite there's sure to be an evil twin lurking in the shadows like a deformed goblin – a misjudged cover that should have never seen the light of the recording studio.
Just cast your eyes and ears over this 'interesting' line up:
Nirvana in a Hawaiian shirt
At the risk of being labelled a whingeing grunge curmudgeon, I'm going to stick my neck out and say that bands generally shouldn't cover Nirvana. The fact that they're probably one of the most covered bands ever makes this a somewhat problematic statement, but look at the evidence – can you name one really, genuinely awesome Nirvana cover? Titus Andronicus' stab at 'Breed' is pretty exhilarating, certainly. FOE's lo-fi take on 'Serve The Servants' is pleasing enough, but the howlers far outnumber the minor successes in this contest.
FOE - 'Serve the Servants'
Which brings us to reggae artist Little Roy's take on 'Lithium'. While 'reggae' may often equal 'good', Little Roy's 2011 album of Nirvana covers for political flick 'Battle In Seattle' pushed the boundaries of that theory, stripping the rage out of a clutch of anthems and replacing it with a big sloppy, tropical dollop of River Island-friendly bullshit. On occasion it sort of works, as on 'Heart Shaped Box', but 'Lithium' sounds like the sort of thing Paolo Nutini would fart out before breakfast to soundtrack the latest Asda ad campaign. And, while we're at it, where's that easygoing cover of self-loathing standard 'Rape Me'? Missed opportunity there, Roy.
Little Roy - 'Lithium' live on Jools Holland
Then again, 'Reggae-mind' (uhthankyew) still looks like a renaissance masterpiece next to Take That's pantomime butchery of 'Smells Like Teen Spirit', rightfully voted the second worst cover of all time in a poll of NME.com readers.
Take That - 'Smells Like Teen Spirit' live
Indie love-in: Kasabian do Video Games
Oh, Kasabian. You had to do it, didn't you? Radio 1's Live Lounge is by now well established as a musical version of trick or treat, but at the height of Lana Del Mania last year Kasabian made the fatal error of expressing their respect for the starlet with a comatose version of uber hit 'Video Games'. Boring and charmless, it failed to capture Del Rey's x factor and instead came across like a clumsy pub rock mishap. To be filed under: know your limits please.
Kasabian - 'Video Games' cover
Proof that people with babies will buy ANYTHING, the lullaby covers market has skyrocketed in the last few years. Judging by Spotify, the nefarious Rockabye Baby is one of the main masterminds behind the trend, with the likes of The Cure, Queens of the Stone Age, Kanye West and, yes, Nine Inch Nails having all had their collective works pillaged and transformed into cutesy, infant-friendly instrumentals. The latter collection is presumably aimed at parents who want to give their offspring horrible nightmares/ turn them into miniature goths at the earliest possible opportunity.
Rockabye Baby - 'Hurt' by NIN
A plinky-plonky rendition of Guns n Roses' sprawling 'November Rain' takes the biscuit, even if Slash's high notes aren't quite as searing when played on xylophone.
Rockabye Baby - 'November Rain' by Guns N Roses
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