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: “Keep the Car Running” by Foo Fighters

I’ve been on a Nirvana/Foo Fighters kick lately, so it seems only fitting that the latest entry in my Covers Corner series features them. It’s also a great crossover because “Keep the Car Running” is one of my favorite Arcade Fire songs, after the iconic “Wake Up.”

The Foo Fighters’ take on the song actually retains much of the spirit of the original. It even features the stringed instrument section. I love Dave Grohl’s voice here. He has excellent range: it can go from grunge to gentle, and in this cover, the gentleness is what’s at the fore. That softer tone is especially evident with the lines, “If some night I don’t come home/Please don’t think I’ve left you alone.” There are also nice acoustic vibes and the beat is so uplifting. Even when the drums crash in, they’re restrained.

Meanwhile, Arcade Fire’s original opens more slowly. Like many of their songs, it’s atmospheric, yet solid. Interestingly, at certain points Win Butler’s voice does actually sound somewhat similar to Dave Grohl’s. (I enjoy parsing the differences between cover and source, but sometimes it’s the similarities that are fun to discover, too.) The story that I get from the Arcade Fire version is just that, a story. Somehow the Foo Fighters cover makes it feel like something that actually happened. Perhaps it’s how many layers of sound are going on: distance versus immediacy.

It’s hard to say which version I like better. What about you?