Wot, no Laibach’s Final Countdown? Top Cover Versions ARE GO! Part 2. (5 down to 1, ya dig?)

2 Jun

Hello again.

Yesterday, I bought you some gems from the world of “songs by one band, being done by another”, or cover versions as the kids of today call them. I can only assume you enjoyed them, as the lack of death threats in the comments imply total approval.

Today, it’s the “top” 5. Essentially, these are just some more covers that I like, and if I’d have put more thought and effort into it, you’d probably be getting a different, better 5. Oh well, too late now.

5. Kidz Bop – Float On

 

Kidz Bop are an American outfit that bring together session musicians and ickle-biddie-kiddies into a studio, let them record the popular tunes of the day, and then sell them on compilation albums available in popular record shops. Very popular, I’m told, with the 8 to 12 demographic. Here, the “Kidz” take on the only song by Modest Mouse that anyone knows, Float On.
I don’t know why I like it. I have an image in my head of 20 or so five year olds getting “hustled” by a “fake Jamaican” on a New York sidewalk, only for the adult in the group to remind them that the experience will stand them in good stead in the future.

4. British Whale – This Town Ain’t Big Enough For The Both Of Us

 

OK. I’ll confess that this cover isn’t all that, and it shouldn’t be in the top five. Indeed, I’d go so far as to say that this should not grace the top 5,000. However, it’s in the countdown for a reason – the video. I can only imagine that, during the tricky period between the Darkness’ second album and sign-on day, Justin Hawkins got so drunk that he believed doing a Sparks cover, and basing the promo video on a darts match would be an excellent idea.
Tragically, it was. The premise is simple. Justin “I Believe In A Thing Called Love” Hawkins versus Phil “The Power” Taylor. The game is tied at 6 legs a-piece, and OH! WOULD YOU BELIEVE IT???, they’ve only gone and left each other a bullseye for the finish. Phil up first; he throws a two, Ron Mael decides it’s an illegal (yet scoring) dart, and so it’s over to the Hawk. Justin steps up, hits the bull, Russell camply shouts BULLSEYE and they all go home.

3. Frente! – Bizarre Love Triangle

 

Conventional wisdom tells us that New Order only really sang two types of songs; songs about getting off your mash on Class A drugs and regretting it later (True Faith is a good example, as is most of Republic), and songs alluding to the little men that live inside Barney Sumner’s breadbin (Mr. Disco, Sub-culture etc.).
It’s difficult to see which category this one falls into, but you can be sure that Aussie alt-kickers “Frente!” didn’t give two hoots. Stripping the song down to it’s barest, three simple chords getting the finger treatment from the guitarist Simon Austin, and the words being beautifully sung by the Angie Hart character, this is about as far away from the original as one can imagine.

2. The Cuban Boys – Foggy Mountain Breakdown (’99 Mix)

 

I’ll say this now: I’m not entirely convinced this is a cover. I think it’s a cover, as the Cuban Boys have put their name to it, but it sounds like a remix. Where is that particular line drawn? Can you massively sample someone else’s tune, lay down a synth track and a drum machine, and legitimately call it your own, John Locke stylee? Who knows, and frankly, who cares. Any excuse to crowbar this little heard tune into a blogpost, frankly.
It’s the good ol’ duelling banjos of Earl Flatt and Lester Scruggs, sped up a little and given the 90s dance treatment, along with the customary Cuban Boys liberal sprinkling of samples from classic movies (“When I mod me head, HIT IT”), as well as the Utah Saints-esque namechecking themselves throughout the record. Boombastic!

 AND THE WINNER IS…

1. Saint Etienne – Only Love Can Break Your Heart (Richard X extended remix)

 

In hindsight, it doesn’t really matter where you draw the line between a cover and a remix, as the scientifically-proven best cover of all time is, in fact, both.
In 1970, popular rocker of Sea-World Neil Young released After The Gold Rush, from which Only Love… was released as a single, taking him into the US Billboard charts for the first time.
In 1990, music journos Bob Stanley and Pete Wiggs went from being gamekeepers to poachers by forming the group Saint Etienne, initially featuring guest vocalists before Sarah Cracknell became a full time member of the band. Only Love Can Break Your Heart was their debut single, featuring the vocal talents of Moira Lambert.
In 2009, neatly keeping the 20 year cycle almost intact, the album featuring Only Love Will Break Your Heart was remixed by the bastard-pop producer Richard X, most famous for that Sugababes song which sampled Gary Numan’s “Are Friends Electric?”.

The result? Eight minutes of pure joy. As I said yesterday, what I like about cover versions is that they distort and change the context in which the lyrics are meant, if not consciously. For example, Carter USMs high tempo cover of This Is How It Feels made suicide and anguish seem like a jolly good time, whereas Frente!’s cover of Bizarre Love Triangle will always be more poignant than the original, and more apt if you end up on the wrong side of one.
With Richard X’s remix, he’s managed to span the range of emotions, and bridge the original to the Saint Etienne version. By keeping the tempo of the cover version, he’s kept the latter’s emotional disinterest, but by introducing the guitar harmony at around the 5 minute mark, he gives a nod and a wink to Neil Young, and a reflection perhaps on love lost.

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