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Sunday 24 June 2018

Cover To Cover

I've talked about covers before, right over here - picking out some that I have hated in the past, and taking a good long look at one that I adore from the present.

Well. Just to prove that I'm not just a hater for hater's sake, I would like to present to you several covers which I feel are better than the originals - and a couple which are pretty neck-and-neck, so you'll have to make your own mind up.

Fair warning. If you are super into music, you will roll your eyes back into your skull at my opinions on this stuff, and have a dozen reasons why I'm wrong. This blog is, as almost all of them are, just opinion.


It's hard to equate current U2 with the same band as recorded Achtung Baby. They're poles apart. As much of a joke as the band is now, back then, they were capable of recording decent tunes. Where the U2 original is a sharp-edged jagged noise, full of the chaos of existing in and moving through a modern city (Zoo Station is a stop on the Berlin metro, and U2 is code for another station on that metro line), the NIN cover is - and this isn't where I thought Reznor would take it - softer. More dreamlike. More textured. More like you are being whisked through this halogen-lit metropolis, with the howl of the trains hurrying through the tunnels echoing in front and behind.

Sure, I can probably be accused of bias - I'm a big fan of Nine Inch Nails and not so big a fan of U2 - but if you listen to the two side-by-side, you'll see what I mean. I more find myself in the mindset of the cover when on a train, ploughing through the dark, being shuttled from one pool of ground reality to the next.


I know, pure sin - considering Fear Factory to do something better than the great Gary Numan - but hear me out. For one thing, in the original, the synth is fantastic. I can't deny that. I just prefer the crunchier, grindier noise of those snarly guitars, with the electronics noise hovering in the background. It's heavy as a rhino in an ironworks, and I like that.

For bonus points? Gary Numan actually appears on this version as a vocalist. Yes. He recorded a new set of vocals for this specific version of this song. For further bonus points - this is the version he plays now. With that growling guitar instead of the low synth. If that isn't an endorsement of a cover version, I don't know what is.


So I like the original. I like the message. I like the brass section in the back. It's singable, it's catchy. It's hand-clappy at a festival. Foot stompy. It has that kind of pace to it, basically the same tempo as Grounds For Divorce or Sad But True. Which is fine, but I can't listen to it anymore, since the cover. Plain and simple, the cover makes the original seem a bit staid, a bit...boring.

So you double down on the tempo, you put in a singer like Amy who has this fantastic vocal tone, you swap out the instrumentation from a funeral march to a parade, and - you have this song which makes you want to actually get up and dance around. It is, in the parlance of the youth, An Absolute Bop. Anything I could want from the original is overtaken by this version. It's just... friggin... better.


I love Bob Dylan. I love Bob Dylan's songs. I hate hearing Bob Dylan sing. I have the same relationship with Leonard Cohen - they write the most masterful songs, but they really aren't the best people to sing them. So I kind of have to wait until someone comes along that wants to cover the songs I like, and I LOVE this one - and guess what. Adele did it, and she did it really well.

Yeah, it's not the best Dylan song, but I've always had a soft spot for it. It's very well written, and the feeling behind it is well conveyed by Adele, who is - lets face it - not a shabby vocalist. It may not carry the same grit as the original, and some like that grit. For me, though. It's this version.


Everything about the John Lennon version of this song pisses me off. I'm not Lennon's biggest fan - I'm not into the Beatles, I think George Harrison had three albatrosses around his neck - so even at his best, I find it hard to buy what he's selling. This isn't his best. It's insipid. It's limp-wristed flammery. It's lazy, and the piano refrain just immediately drives me to turn it off. I'm too cynical to buy this, sir. I don't buy it. Nor can I.

So. Along comes the A Perfect Circle cover, and it takes a song I previously hated for its floppy naivety and gives it a nasty, cynical sneer. That's all it takes. This constant, industrious stomp, reeling off all these ideals. Not a long-haired circle-glassed hippy that beat his wife but the noise of a political-corporate merger telling the world that everything will be fine, just do what I say. Much more fitting. Much more...real. Thank you.


Disclaimer: I really like both versions of this song. The Rancid original is an absolute bop. I mean, if you don't like Rancid, you won't like this, probably - but hey, nobody's perfect. It's great, and I dig it. Big arm-flaily bouncy fun, with a message that I appreciate. This is you in a bar with all your friends getting over that most recent knockback.

I hate a lot of breathy acoustic covers of songs. I don't hate this one. It still feels good, just quieter. It doesn't bop, but it still gets back up. This is the you that is collapsed on the couch with that same group of friends after that night in the bar, and realising you're surrounded by people you are chill with. Both sides of life are totally necessary, so I like that I can have this song either way - both different, both good.

Well, there's half a dozen reasons for the average music fan to lose respect for me - but give them a try. You might even find one you like.

Suggestions for good covers are always welcome here.

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