Covers Corner: “Keep On Loving You” by The Lemonheads

I talked about a Lemonheads cover a few years ago. This one is an interpretation of a much sappier song. I enjoy cheesy music as much as the next critic, but I love what The Lemonheads make out of REO Speedwagon. The original version of “Keep On Loving You” is an iconic ballad that’s both tender and urgent. In the hands of Evan Dando, the song is equally urgent, but takes on a rougher, almost sexy quality. You can tell there’s someone on his mind and he doesn’t want anything else but them. There are moments when his voice almost breaks from the passion.

I’ve mentioned this here in the Corner before, but oftentimes with covers, the new artist enunciates the lyrics more clearly. That’s not consistently true with this cover. I don’t mind; it feels more real somehow, which fits with the themes of the song.

In terms of which song I like better, I’m honestly leaning more towards The Lemonheads version! What do you think?

Covers Corner: “Keep the Car Running” by Foo Fighters

I’ve been thinking about the line “keep the car running” a lot lately, which prompted me to dust off this entry and post it. I almost think of it as motivation: keep going, keep moving, no matter what. The song itself talks about waking up from dreams. I’ve often tried to figure out the symbolism of the song, but that lyric at least make sense to me.

Arcade Fire has rock roots: you can hear it in the grinding of “Wake Up,” but The Foo Fighters cover of this song, of course, makes it rougher hewn. The drums are very clean, but David Grohl’s punk-rooted voice gives it an edge. If you think about it, even though he’s also singing that “every night my dream’s the same,” his dreams and his city might be different than what’s referenced in the Arcade Fire version. That’s the beauty of music, really: we all bring our own interpretation to songs.

One of my favorite parts of “Keep the Car Running” is the suspension right before the chorus, where there’s a shimmery noise (if you’ve read this blog long enough, you know how much I love shimmering songs) and then the lyrics kick back in. The shimmer is absent from the Foo Fighters version, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. This makes the song seem more grounded, despite the atmospheric ennui of the lyrics: “The same place animals go when they die/You can’t climb across a mountain so high/The same city where I go when I sleep/You can’t swim across a river so deep.”

Of the two, I like the Arcade Fire version better; I guess I like shimmer too much! But I definitely appreciate what the Foo Fighters are bringing to the song, and the new angle they tease out.

Covers Corner: “Swingin Party” by Lorde

A new discovery! The Replacements are one of my all-time favorite bands, and “Swingin Party” came up just now while I was listening on shuffle. I needed to confirm some lyrics, so I googled, and lo and behold: Lorde covered it. I love how rabbit holes work like that.

Anyway, I like this cover a lot. Lorde sings much more clearly than Paul Westerberg does. That’s a trend I’ve noticed in my years of doing Covers Corner: covers tend to articulate lyrics much more than the originals. I’m not sure why that is. I also think as an artist overall she fits. “Swingin Party” has the dismal, atmospheric tone that “Ribs” does, or even “Royals.” Those songs also talk about looking for a party somewhere, but maybe when you get there, it’s not all it’s cracked up to be. The backing trip-hop is quieter than “Ribs,” and its sparseness makes her vocals stand out even more. Its gloominess is also poignant somehow; see also “Here Comes a Regular,” one of my other favorite Replacements songs.

Which one do you like better?

And the Lorde version:

Covers Corner: “Whole Wide World” by Billie Joe Armstrong

One of my favorite songs is “Whole Wide World” by Wreckless Eric. It’s deceptively slow punk with a chugging start and soft vocals that crash into the chorus. The chorus itself has the signature sneer of punk, but it’s so heartfelt that the posturing sheen wears away quickly.

Billie Joe Armstrong took a turn at the song and pulled it off. A big reason for this is because of his accent. I believe I’ve linked to this article before, but the surf rock culture that gave rise to California punk also gave rise to its own distinctive vocal style. As Armstrong once said, he’s an American faking a British accent faking an American accent. That’s perfectly suited to a classic punk song like “Whole Wide World.” He doesn’t have quite the same grit, nor is his voice nearly as exaggerated, but it’s pretty near perfect to my ears. I feel like I don’t often feature covers that are so closely matched to each other like that. Recently, covers seem to be slow acoustic renditions of pop songs. Which isn’t a bad thing! I’m fascinated by those trends. But here, I like the strong echoes of the original that run through Armstrong’s rendition of “Whole Wide World.” As usual, I’ve included both below. Give a listen and let me know: are they really that closely matched? Which do you like better? (I honestly can’t say myself.)

Covers Corner: “Only You” by The Flying Pickets

I first heard The Flying Pickets’ cover of this song when it was used to creepy effect on The Americans. (I get a lot of song recommendations from TV, now that I think about it.)

What’s fascinating to me about these two versions is the tone they take. Even though it’s the same song, the arrangement makes the perspective completely flip. The Yazoo original is spare and electronic, with a tight beat that’s ’80s to the core. Its tone is more hopeful, more of a love song. The lyrics seem to be describing a current relationship with a pensive sort of joy.

Meanwhile, The Flying Pickets took a mournful route. Because theirs is a choral/acapella version, the song echoes. This makes it sound like they’re reminiscing about the past. “Only You” isn’t somber in their hands, exactly; it’s just melancholy.

For this reason, I like the original better. To be sure, I can get in my feels when I listen to music, and there’s a time and a place for that. But here, with lyrics reaching out, talking about no one else, only you – I’d like to hear about someone in love.

Covers Corner: “Sometimes Always” by Brakes

I’m honestly surprised that I haven’t written about this song, and particularly this cover, before. It’s really what started my obsession with the Mary Chain. I heard “Worry About It Later” by Brakes on an MTV show, then had Touchdown, its album, on repeat for months afterwards. From there, I dove into Brakes’ back catalogue. Give Blood isn’t my favorite of theirs, but “Sometimes Always” was the standout. I thought that it was an original until I did more research. And, well, the rest is history: I’m pretty much always listening to at least one Mary Chain song, I’ve been to three of their concerts, I know most of their releases, I’ve listened to interviews, etc., etc. As a friend of mine says, it’s on brand for me that my favorite band is an obscure indie rock outfit from the ’80s.

What’s interesting about the Brakes version is that it’s gender-flipped. The Pipettes provide Hope Sandoval’s vocals, but Eamon Hamilton is the main narrator. Instead of “you sure are lucky son/lucky son of a gun,” we get: “you sure are lucky girl/luckiest in the world.” That line spoke to me somehow when I was listening to this song over and over in my early college years. Although Brakes largely follows the acoustic sound of Stoned and Dethroned in their cover, they offer a punk-tinged edge on the bridge. There, the guitar is just a little bit louder and sharper. (All of Give Blood, really, is punk: see the short, blistering “Cheney” for an example. Eamon’s sneering accent is the perfect finishing touch.)

With these two songs, I can’t really pick a favorite. The cover is special to me for what it started; the original is special to me just because I love the Mary Chain. Below, as usual, are both.

Covers Corner: “Sledgehammer” by Harry Styles

I read a great article in Pitchfork about So by Peter Gabriel; they’ve been revisiting “significant albums of the past” recently. I’ve been listening “In Your Eyes” on repeat for the past several days, so the timing was perfect. Speaking of perfect timing: I’ve been itching to do another Covers Corner, and I’ve had this one on the list for a while.

The reason I wanted to, er, cover this cover is because I like “Sledgehammer” and I think that Harry Styles is a unique choice to do it. He’s been leaning into the artsy, gender bending side of music of late. “Sledgehammer” isn’t really that: it’s bluntly sexual and masculine. But Harry takes it on well. His voice actually sounds a lot like Peter Gabriel’s, which is impressive. Besides, the benefit of a cover is that oftentimes you can hear the lyrics more clearly. This is definitely the case here. Harry enunciates the lyrics without sounding forced or robotic. It helps me get more out of the song. Another aspect of Harry’s cover that I really like is that the backup singers stand out a lot more. They carry the chorus and call-and-response in a way that’s drowned out in the original.

What Harry maintains from the original is a sense of joy and even play. (I mean, as I mentioned in a previous Monthly Obsessions post, the metaphors in the lyrics can get a little ridiculous.) His voice is light and smooth; it’s like he’s singing with a straight face despite lines like “I will be your honey bee.” There’s seduction there. He manages to make the song subtle. It doesn’t hurt that the cover lacks the heavier drums that Peter Gabriel’s version has.

In terms of “which is better,” I’m leaning towards the original, actually: maybe that’s because it’s the one I heard first, or because I, too, enjoy silly come-ons made extra obvious. But as usual, I’m leaving both below; let me know which one you like! (I am, as usual, loathe to include YouTube links, but the Harry Styles version isn’t available on Spotify.)

Covers Corner: “Temptation” by The Limousines

I had a completely different Covers Corner lined up, but then I was reminded of this one, which has long been a favorite of mine. The echoing, “I do believe, I do believe, I do believe” gets stuck in my head all the time.

I’ve talked about The Limousines many times before, so this time I’ll focus on the song itself. In their hands, it opens with this machine gun of a dance beat, urgent in its potency. Eric Victorino’s distinctive vocal fry adds a great layer. When he says, “Hey!” and jumps into the chorus, there’s a hint of boyishness, but he turns fierce at just the right moments. The lyric, “Bolts from above hurt the people down below/People in this world, we have no place to go” is muffled and calls to mind his song “The Future,” which might be one of my favorite Limousines songs.

New Order and their predecessor Joy Division are fixtures of the new wave ’80s. With The Limousines’ electronica cover, they hurtle right into the 21st century.

(I am loathe to post YouTube links instead of Spotify, but this was a limited release on their website 10+ years ago and isn’t available anywhere else.)

Covers Corner: “Uncle John’s Band” by Jimmy Buffett

It’s sunny where I live for the first time in ages. That got me thinking about the “Summertime Jamz” (yes, with a zed) playlist that I made years ago. I listen to it during the colder months when I’m daydreaming about warmer climes. Now that we actually have warm weather around here, it’s time to break it out again. One of the first songs I put on there was “Uncle John’s Band” as covered by Jimmy Buffett. I was never a Deadhead (far too young for that era, and not my style of music in general), so this post is primarily going to talk about the cover rather than the original.

I’ve heard this song so many times I know a̶l̶l̶ ̶t̶h̶e̶ ̶r̶u̶l̶e̶s̶ ̶b̶y̶ ̶n̶o̶w̶ the lyrics by heart. I find some of the lyrics moving: in one interpretation, they’re about John the Baptist. “Come hear Uncle John’s Band/playing to the tide…/He’s come to take his children home.” Beyond that, the song is almost melancholy. It’s a story of loneliness; living in a silver mine called Beggar’s Tomb and hoping someone will listen to you. I like songs that are contemplative that way.

The steel drums are what prompted me to put it on my summertime playlist in the first place. It calls to mind “Kokomo” and island escape. Besides, Jimmy Buffett is summertime music; I think I have one of his other songs on that playlist as well.

Here’s to more warm days to come.

Covers Corner: “You Can’t Hurry Love” by Phil Collins

The spirit of the ’60s has been alive and kicking around here, especially since a few days ago when I heard that Ronnie Spector passed on. The news prompted me to listen to girl groups left and right. “Be My Baby” is without compare of course, but today I want to talk about another group, the Supremes, and a cover of one of their songs that’s personally meaningful. “You Can’t Hurry Love” is a classic from the era. It got a modern update in the early ’80s when Phil Collins revisited it.

His version was actually a staple of my childhood. Beyond the nostalgia factor, I just love the drums here. It makes the cover so danceable and hopeful; it supports the message of the song. Phil Collins’s voice is light, reflective as he talks about the possibilities of love. The interpretation is refreshing. It’s a cover, but I feel like its bright rhythm honors the spirit of The Supremes.

The Supremes’ original has the echoing quality common to songs of that era. That sound always makes me think of black and white TV. Their harmonies are beautiful. In their hands, the lyrics have a bit more of a longing feel: talking to their mama about when love might arrive. The eventual trust and faith expressed in The Supremes’ voices as they rise and fall brings to mind the gospel roots that many Black girl groups of the era had.

I can’t decide which version I prefer, and indeed, maybe that’s a question for the Covers Corner feature that I’ll set aside for now. What do you think?