Got that covered (2)

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Following on from ‘Got That Covered’ today’s post explores a different angle – hard rock/metal/grunge style interpretations of pop songs. This approach has produced some mixed results: Marilyn Manson scored hits reinterpreting The Eurythmics (‘Sweet Dreams’), Soft Cell (‘Tainted Love’) and Depeche Mode (‘Personal Jesus’) and Alien Ant Farm were similarly successful with Michael Jackson (‘Smooth Criminal’) but I felt Machine Head fell flat taking on the musical brilliance of The Police (‘Message in a Bottle’). Robbie Williams was obviously playing it for laughs when he performed a punk-style ‘Back For Good’ (by his former band, Take That) at gigs, and that’s ok too if it’s done right, though I wonder what was going through Andrew Eldritch (The Sisters of Mercy‘s) mind when he convinced his band to perform Hot Chocolate (‘Emma’) and Dolly Parton (‘Jolene’). Funny, but peculier rather than ha, ha!

So here’s a few interpretations that press my ‘like’ button, as it were; starting with a classic from Genesis‘ stadium rock phase back in the ’80s…

Disturbed – Land of Confusion (Genesis). I’m a big fan of Genesis – their 1992 show at Knebworth was one of the best live performances I’ve ever seen, and the set opened with this song. I’m not 100% convinced by the vocals on this track but the combination of the music and the animation really works. I’ve always thought that the ’80s production on the ‘Invisible Touch’ record was kinda lightweight and that these tracks could benefit from a more hard rock approach. Disturbed prove me right, and in fact Phil Collins referenced this cover during band rehearsals for the ’07 reunion tour

Deftones – To Have and To Hold (Depeche Mode). What’s brilliant about this cover is the way Deftones‘ stoned alt-metal really nails the gothic, introspective tone of Martin Gore’s original whilst taking the song in a totally different sonic direction. This was taken from a 1998 DM tribute album ‘For The Masses’ also featuring versions by Rammstein, The Smashing Pumpkins, Apollo 440, The Cure and Failure amongst others.

Mike Shinoda – Enjoy The Silence [Re-interpreted](Depeche Mode). More of a remix than a cover this one, but a worthy version that casts David Gahan in the role of the hard rock star he wanted to be back in DM’s ‘Songs of Faith & Devotion’ days. The more muscular approach actually suits Gahan’s vocal well and the (official) video clip is just brilliant

Tricky – Black Steel (Public Enemy). Since parting ways with Massive Attack the aptly-named Bristolian has proved to be one of his generation’s most ideosyncratic musical voices, to the point of wilful obscurity. His 1995 debut ‘Maxinquaye’  on which this track appears remains one of his best, most accessible works. Putting the words of Afrocentrist political commentator Chuck D into the mouth of a British woman (his then-girlfriend Martina Topley-Bird) and setting it over Grunge-y guitars demonstrates his skill in thinking outside the musical box. Contrasting greatly with the ‘Trip-Hop’ style with which he first rose to prominence, it still possesses somewhat of a hypnotic, druggy quality.

Empty Spaces – Mushroomhead (Pink Floyd). Not a massive departure from the original ‘Wall’ version, just a little heavier and darker. Mushroomhead got stick for happening to be share some image similarities with the more commercially successful Slipknot – even though neither band was aware of the other until several years into their respective careers – but although they’re both metal bands their sounds are quite distinct and MH are well worth checking out. Like SK, however, they’re Floyd fans, and  I like that this YouTube poster has synched it up with the original Gerald Scarfe animation.

Got The Time – Anthrax (Joe Jackson). Thrash Metal is a prime example of how the wider listening tastes of musicians drive songwriting in new directions. Metal and Punk/New Wave were mutually exclusive if you believed some of the pundits, but Anthrax, like contemporaries Metallica loved both. That’s why we have cool reinterpretations like Metallica doing ‘The Wait’ and ‘So What?’,  and Anthrax‘s ‘Protest and Survive’ and ‘London’ covers amongst others. This take on JJ doesn’t differ much from the original, save for Joe Belladonna’s trademark overwrought vocal (I’m a Bush man, myself) but it’s a testament (no pun intended) to the importance of the Brirish New Wave to the fledgling Thrash scene back in the late ’80s/early ’90s. The sound quality on this clip isn’t great – it’s a live recording and not the best – but I just loved the cute Lego animation, even if a shortage of figures results in an absence of Dan Spitz…

Toxic – Marillion (Britney Spears). What strikes me about this version – and I had the pleasure of being in the audience for this one-off performance at their fan convention in the Netherlands – is that they don’t appear to be taking the piss.

Lay Lady Lay – Ministry (Bob Dylan). Ministry have turned in a plethora of wacked-out and occasionally dubious musical homages over the years, including the kind of stuff you might expect like Sabbath, ZZ Top and The Stones through to left-field yet indubitably appropriate choices like Amy Winehouse (‘Rehab’, natch). This is perhaps my favourite, from the somewhat underrated ‘Filth Pig’ album:

Sticking with Al and co. albeit in a different, tongue firmly in cheek guise:

Do Ya Think I’m Sexy? – Revolting Cocks (Rod Stewart). They’ve messed around with the lyrics a bit on this version, and I like the little snigger on ‘KY Jelly’…

These Boots Are Made For Walkin’ – Megadeth (Nancy Sinatra). Another comedy take on a well known song, also with a few lyrical liberties taken. Apparently, writer Lee ‘The Moustache’ Hazlewood was a little upset about this, deeming it “vile and offensive” and demanding that the naughty song be excised after 10 years of much-appeciated royalty payments. Count-ry singer…

Enjoy, and fell free to comment and/or suggest your own off-the-wall rock interpretations…

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4 responses »

  1. Thanks Guls,

    Another great piece – loads of interesting stuff here. (I was in the audience for ‘Toxic’ too – and agree with your sentiments.)

    I wasn’t a fan of mainstream 80s pop particularly, but new takes on tracks by, for example, Depeche Mode and Tears for Fears with the 80s production values stripped away, have helped me appreciate the quality of songs and songwriting.

    Cheers!

    Michael

  2. Cross-referencing my assorted online hangouts I now realise you’re fellow MOLFer Gwirion. In fact I’m sure I kinda knew that subconsciously, so I feel a bit silly asking you if you were a Marillion fan – oops! Be curious to hear your opinion, as a Dylan fan, on LLL.

    Andy.

  3. Great post! I love that Anthrax cover, which inspired me to go check out Joe Jackson and discover I really like his works. And that Revolting Cocks Rod Stewart cover me and my buddies would goof off to all the time too. That Genesis cover was surprisingly really good! I usually can’t stand Disturbed, but they did a great job with that tune.

    Here are a few good covers you may enjoy.

    I’m not a huge Children of Bodom fan, but I really like this cover of CCR’s Lookin Out My Backdoor. The increase in speed and the harsher vocals fit the tune surprisingly well, and the chickin pickin’ guitar sounds great.

    This is one of my favorite covers of all time. Ghost (if you’ve yet to check them out, they’re a band I highly recommend) take one the The Beatles most famous and chipper songs and with a few tweaks in the mood make it quite a dark song while still retaining everything that made the original so great.

    I love what Turisas did with Boney M.’s disco hit Rasputin. Did they just invent Disco Metal?! I’d love for this to catch on!

  4. Ha! That Turisas track is great! Some of the Scandi-metal acts sometimes come across as a little po-faced and serious, but recordings like this show their tongue-in-cheek side which is great. Nice clip, too.

    Ghost are a band I definitely want to check out more – I’ve listened to a few tracks but haven’t got around to picking up a CD yet. In todays music-saturated world it’s tempting to dismiss acts who present a quirky or deliberately enigmatic image but they certainly seem to have something special going on. Cheers for the clips.

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