Our mind has been on music lately.
Oh, don’t worry, movies will always have our hearts but music it seems has our soul to balance things out. Now originally, we were going to post a list of the albums we’ve been listening to over the last few weeks and what we happened to be doing while they soothed our savage beast but this morning a song came on shuffle on our iPhone that totally changed that plan. Not because it was an old favourite, not because it took us back to a time when gym knickers and Highland Toffees were a thing. But purely because it was a cover of a track that was executed so badly, so absolutely horrendously that a small part of our spirit (one of the few we haven’t transferred into a Horcrux yet) withered quickly and died.
You know the feeling, right? The intro that starts so familiarly, where you get all gee-ed up for that refrain you know so well and then…a bin bag full of wtf gets pushed against your lughole blocking out everything but that crooning succubus stealing the life from your body. And it’s so godawful that you can’t bring yourself to switch the thing off.
Yeah, you know the feeling.
Anyway, in a complete change of plan we’ve decided to give you guys a list of the five cover versions assaulting our ears lately, the five versions of songs that we will never be able unhear in the hopes that you young plucklings can recognise and avoid their insidious clutches.
So, to get straight into it, this rundown of absolute ear-bleeding stinkers begins with…
1) The Days of Pearly Spencer- Marc Almond (specifically Live at the Lokerse Feesten 2000) :
The Days of Pearly Spencer is a class tune let’s get that out of the way first off. Irish musician David McWilliams who wrote and performed the original tune gave the thing a country gravitas and almost documentary feel, allowing listeners to get an insight into the rundown areas of his hometown of Ballymena. It also contains sweeping orchestral backing and a totally unique chorus sound apparently achieved by recording McWilliam’s vocals through a telephone close to the studio. It’s an oddity and a gem.
Marc Almond’s cover however is…not. Overlaying any sense of seriousness or social conscience with showmanship and breathy superficiality, Almond turns the thing into a total frothy pop monstrosity. The strings section he employs sound like they are all on LSD (possible), the electro sound is discordant with the lyrics and his choice to add in an additional verse to make the song more optimistic totally undercuts its entire point. He basically takes the thing and retools it for the vapid, brainless masses for whom morality is an afterthought.
Words really can’t express how much this cover makes us want to gouge our own anvil and stirrups out. The race is almost run, Marc? It’s well past mate. Well past.
2) Crazy In Love- Snow Patrol:
Uh oh uh oh uh oh uh oh oh no no….is correct.
Everyone knows the original, you couldn’t escape it- all chinchilla fur and urban glamorousness. Sampling Are You My Woman (Tell Me So), a song from the early 1970’s, Beyonce and Jay-Z’s collaboration is a slice of fried R&B gold, complete with blaring fanfares and horn riffs. But have you happened to stumble across the cover recorded by Snow Patrol during a BBC session with Zane Lowe?
Be grateful if the answer is no.
Because heavy on the bass and drums, with all melody surgically removed, this dear readers is a total atrocity. We should all be glad that the bass almost drowns out the vocals in the chorus of this version. What it seems impossible to be glad about is SP’s choice to drop their usual upbeat sincere sound for a kind of grimy sinister come-on, guaranteed to make your skin crawl right off your bones and go set up home somewhere else.
Seriously, these Irish good guys absolutely murder the Beyonce classic. And the rap?! Jay-Z’s awesome stream of consciousness section? The rap performed by Snow Patrol we have no doubt will be playing on repeat when the time comes to head downstairs and enter purgatory. There’s no way that isn’t waiting for us in the eternal steam room once we’ve shuffled off this mortal coil. And yes, before you ask the thought of that does fill us with dread. As it should.
It really should.
3) Fortunate Son- U2:
Really, who doesn’t love this Anti War movement anthem, a masterclass in rock from Creedance Clearwater Revival released in 1969. It’s basically the totem of America’s counter culture and revolt. Opening with the guitar riff to end all guitar riffs, and laid down with riotous vocals (courtesy of patriot John Fogerty) Fortunate Son is a piece of vinyl imbued with historical and musical significance and a damn good ride all the way through.
Then cut to 1991.
And U2 stomping on the airwaves coast to coast. That they would even have the cajones to cover this American protest song, this searing indictment of the nepotism and insidious politics of the Vietnam War is bad enough. But then Bono is the king of remonstration, the self-proclaimed messiah of dissent so it shouldn’t be that much of a surprise we suppose. None of that excuses the end result of this cover though. With guitar riffs stripped of all their violent power and turned into some kind of wilting ethereal presence, the main vocals lay on top coming across as less angry than playful and totally insincere. All the smugness and conceit the band have been accused of back in the day are on full display in this track and we can only compare listening to it to bathing in a river where an outlet pipe is spewing out effluence further upstream. It makes your skin tingle. Then blister. And finally, just slip off your bones. God it’s horrible.
In all seriousness, don’t listen to it y’all. We know you’re tempted now. But just don’t.
You’ll regret it.
Don’t say we didn’t warn you.
4) The Times They Are A Changin’-Phil Collins
Influenced by Celtic ballads, Bob Dylan’s classic 1964 song (and album of the same name actually) was written to try and influence the politicians and people of the time. It was designed to get people to sit up and stand up for their beliefs. It was…always has been a song of purpose and so it shouldn’t come as much of a shock that since its release it’s been covered by almost everyone and their dog; by anyone trying their darndest to make a difference.
There was always a high chance then that someone would, in their attempts to be political and socially conscious, slay this beast of a tune. The road to good intentions, you know.
Enter Phil (not literally, ew.)
Oh, Phil of the land of Collins. We love you we really do. You gave us dancing gorillas and a whole Tarzan album when precisely no-one was asking for that. But damn, you wrecked this cover, man. You wrecked it good.
How to describe it though? With only a solo piano playing at the opening, it quickly becomes clear that this version of the song isn’t going to have the authority of its predecessor. And in fact the longer it goes on the more powerless and weak it feels, sad to say. Even with the introduction of a beat to jig things along, events continue to go downhill.
The vocals are way too light and airy- too smooth, leaving the the track devoid of any rage or conscience and it kind of makes you wonder if Phil asked to cover this as part of some lame attempt to replicate the social angst of tracks like ‘Another Day in Paradise’ or ‘Both Sides of the Story.’
And as soon as the guitar comes in? You guessed it. There’s no hard thrum, instead it’s all eighties Springsteen teen strumming. Everything just sounds too clean shaven, too ‘of course I’ll shake your hand,’ to sing honestly about spitting in the eye of progress.
And a cut to the bridge, with its own celtic elements (read: bagpipes) takes influences and makes them blatant when they were never supposed to be so overt. It’s just all too obvious, too easy listening you know?
Giving us chills in all the wrong ways.
5) Mirrors- Ellie Goulding (BBC sessions Live Lounge 2013)
Justin Trousersnake gives good pop. You can’t deny it and this particular track that blasted into the charts in 2013, apparently inspired by his grandparents marriage was no flash in the pan- offering up bold vocals and an unusual depth of production from people like Timbaland and J-Roc. It kind of rocks if you ask us in a catchy-Summer anthem way.
It seems it kind of rocks if you ask Ellie Goulding too because she decided to record a cover version during her Live Lounge session the same year.
Which was a ‘Big Mistake. Huge’- As Vivian Ward might say. Because Goulding’s version is just embarrassing to listen to. Sorry Ellie. The range of notes contained in the tune immediately make her voice sound tremulous and stretched. Also, the number of the words in some of the verses seem to push her just that bit too far and she struggles to get them all out within the framework of the tempo; a rookie mistake when singing live. For some reason, the song just doesn’t seem to fit with a British accent either. Who knew? We sure didn’t but then we would probably have done a practice run before recording it live. We like to think so at least.
The fact that Goulding decides to throw in way too many fluctuations at the end of sentences will never disguise that failing no matter how hard she tries. The harmonies of the backing vocalists are ok to be fair but ultimately, overall, she just kind of fades in comparison with them. There’s no romance, no conviction here- that’s the main issue. Just throwaway sentiment all being told. It’s really quite cringe making and as a disclaimer we would recommend that no-one self-harms by giving this track a chance.
If she asks, Don’t keep your eyes on her. Just don’t do it.
No good will come of it. Trust us we know these things.
So, there it is. The top five covers we’ve heard recently that made us curl into ourselves and re-evaluate our life choices. Please feel free to hit us up with your own suggestions on terrible covers, we’d love to hear them…
The suggestions that is. The songs not so much.
Lessons have been learned. This has been an educational and cathartic post today.
And we don’t plan on relapsing anytime soon.