Seperis (seperis) wrote,

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covers: generational shifts make something new

Until Christmas, work is taking over life and reason, and it will do the same after Christmas. And VPN will make sure it follows me home anyway. It is also That Fucking Time of the Month in triplicate and I hate everything ever in life.

This is a good time to focus on music. Two posts the same month! I know! But there's a fair to good chance I'll barely be online for the next two weeks and that is so goddamn depressing I can't even. I do love my work right now; at least now, we're doing something necessary. It just sucks because the importance means it takes everything out of me to get it done and I don't have anything else left for anything. I'm just so tired, and I'm not sure now it's entirely physical either.


Covers are my pet. I like for different groups and singers to take up songs and recreate them in their own imagine. Good or bad or mediocre, they bring something interesting to them, leaving something of themselves behind in the history of the song, and it's always fascinating, even if I hate it. Which I'll be honest, a lot of covers I wouldn't listen to for fun; I listen to them because it's an affirmation, an argument, a discussion, a protestation, and it may not be good, but they're trying to say something and I want to know what it is and why.

Reference: Second Hand Songs, a cover database that steals your life.

I'll pull youtube this time for direct comparison when I can find it. You will want to sample both, but I suggest even if you don't like it, listen straight through. Chosen for what I could find quickly so could be anything in the video.

God's Gonna Cut You Down
Original: Johnny Cash
Cover: Costanza

Johnny Cash is history and legend and reality combined; he shook country music the genre and the philosophy, he lived like a rockstar cliche, and if he didn't do it, it's only because he forgot he did it in an alcoholic haze. Listening to him is an experience, and he's one of the few legends that knowing his real life enhances his music.

The song is an intensely secular man's discussion of God's justice and that is what makes Costanza's remix so complicated for me emotionally. You don't take warnings from God and turn them quite like this without ever losing what they are and what they represent. Genre and aesthetics may have changed, but the meaning is the same, but with a hard twist.

Feminine technopop always fascinates me more than when men do it; a song like this is why. The background, almost bouncy beat, the sweetly female voice, the acoustics, the--everything. It's unsettling and bouncy and kind of danceable and really makes you wonder where she heard it the first time and how it hit her. Johnny Cash was warning the earth; Costanza is celebrating the fates of those who will fall under the flaming sword. It's very different, tired and inevitable and satisfied, too. She'd dance on their graves after, if she could.

Original: Nine Inch Nails
Cover: Johnny Cash

If you haven't heard this one, get both now. I am so not kidding.

When Reznor said that he lost the song when Johnny Cash vocalized it, he underestimated himself as an artist, but I get what he meant. NIN doing it is druggingly dark, rich, moody, but the story of a younger man who still has a life to get high enough to forget. Johnny Cash makes a retrospective of it like a man standing at his own grave; unvarnished, stripped of illusions, and every word cuts. He lived that life, and he remembers it all without hope of amendment. NIN does it hopeless with the knowledge time may make it less so; Cash knows there's no time left.

The Cash version's slowly building ending to those last words, quiet and stripped of everything but the harsh, soft, broken, lost, never fails to gut me.

Ms Jackson
Original: OutKast
Cover: The Vines

Talk about a trip. I have researched and googled and wiki'ed and I'm still told this is the correct origin and cover and I still have no idea what to do with it. OutKast's utterly gorgeous, honest, amazing, the difficult exploration of a man's relationship with his ex and ex-inlaws. Rap and R&B are action music for me; I want to move to it, not just listen, and this one combines both nicely.

I have no idea what The Vines were doing here; talk about taking a retrospective, they make it sound like a stripped down cover of a Beatles song, soft and angsty and pleading, begging for understanding. OutKast wasn't apologizing for anything; that's all The Vines are trying to do. I never would have connected them together if I hadn't verified against Secondhand Songs and then wikipedia and then iTunes and Amazon, because holy shit.

I like this. I like how utterly, radically different they are and how they dovetail and then go in utterly opposite emotional directions.

Original: John Lennon
Cover: A Perfect Circle

As a music lover, I have yet to find anything even close to this in sheer reimagining the original so thoroughly; philosophically, taking Lennon's song adn doing this to it just bothers me. Luckily, I'm not that deep, and also, I get why this one had to go this way, it had to.

Lennon's original, hopeful, deeply political and philosophical and catchy statement about a better world turned backwards into a grim imagining of a world Lennon imagined due to post-apocalyptic destruction. It's not just a different decade, another useless war; the social movement of the sixties and seventies clung to hope in the face of Vietnam, the need to be sure this would never, ever happen again. They were hopeful. Now, we're not, and our political statement don't imagine this better world we can create, we really can, if we just work at it. All we can hope for is that it won't get worse, and we don't believe that, either.

Original: Depeche Mode
Cover: Shiny Toy Guns*

[*note: this is a fan made video of the cover. And it's amazing. Watch it.]

Depeche Mode is a band I appreciate more than love. I love dancing to them and listening to them, and I get the power of their work in the genre. Shiny Toy Guns' intensely sexual, techno-pop version however, is something else entirely. The combination of female and male call and response, not talking directly to each other but toward each other, is gorgeous. Depeche Mode didn't emphasize the possession quality of obsession quite like this, and the uncomfortable feeling of not just being observed, but watched, watched constantly, watched with intent. The music is just amazing, the multiple build and slide-down, the brief periods of calm before it hits all over again, for me, just for me, it's all about me, me, me, and the object best remember that.

To be fair, Shiny Toy Guns doesn't exactly fall into my aesthetic; techno and electronica even with pop aren't usually where I find zen, but this is why I buy their albums. That and the fact Chemistry of a Car Crash is still the most-played song I own. I mean, by a healthy margin.

Billie Jean
Original: Michael Jackson
Cover: David Cook

I get David's interpretation is off Chris Cornell's interpretation (which I also like), but David's voice is what makes this work for me. The breathy, almost alcohol-rough rise and fall, less smooth and so much a contrast to Michael's higher, purer voice.

Jackson went at it like an accusation, a defense, almost an attack--it's not mine--and how could this happen? David's approach is--and this is not new with anything made after 2000 and especially 2003, wonder why?--unsurprised, realistic, a little tired. Cook's all defense, all protestations of innocence, with no expectation of being believed. Possibly because unlike the first song, the second is sung like a guilty man.

There's something about what we do to music that unsettles me in general when we cover anything before circa 1990; Michael sang it like someone innocent, who knows he's innocent, and he'll prove it. Cook's--not innocent, not uncertain, knows he's screwed, and is going through the motions of fighting it--which he has to--but it's not like everyone knows it's totally a lie. Interpretation of music through a glass darkly, maybe, or maybe the 00's are about how we don't hope the same way, or with the same intensity. Or with the same expectation of change.

Time After Time
Original: Cyndi Lauper
Cover: Eva Cassidy

I'm sensing a theme.

The eighties were a very bouncy time for pop music. The aesthetic was very--we just don't sing like this unless we're being self-conscious about it. It's a generational shift in how we approach music and how we listen. Even pop isn't this positive or upbeat when it's being positive and upbeat. Mostly, I can't take it seriously now, which is depressing since hey, I was alive in the eighties and remember hearing these songs well before the age of reason.

Eva's wistfulness, stripping away the heady eighties joy and keeping the sweetness is very much a product of how we just as a society do not get bouncing around in a sugar haze. It's not darker, per se, but in line with a lot of eighties interpretation, it's sober, reflective, a little sad, someone who feels they're being left behind but that's okay, they'll try and keep up anyway, as long as they possibly can.

Original: Oasis
Cover: Ryan Adams

Faster cover turnover on this one, we're talking eight years to take a song that wasn't what I call a joy and celebration and just strip it down to wailing melancholy.

Oasis irritates me; they were good and they should have gotten better and I just can't even deal with what the hell they did. But I still love the Gallagher brothers and so I accept. I loved this song in college; this is the stuff you get high to when you don't feel the seventies aesthetic but you really feel your drugs need a musical soundtrack. Remember, I went to college in a place where I could get away with owning The Cranberries but not anything pre-1990 or the looks I'd get.

A lot of this song comes off a post-breakup anger, but not without the eventual hope that they'll get back together. Ryan Adams more reflective, softer, quieter, much more personally smug interpretation is chiding, amused, because hey, they broke up but the object of affections was oh so wrong, and now they have to live with it, but I don't believe anyone feels the way I do about you now, a little mocking, emphasized, this is the reason they should get back together, who else would want you? beneath it. The chorus feels so secondary to that certainty that the mistake was all on the object.

Tainted Love
Original: Gloria Jones
Cover 1: Soft Cell
Cover 2: Marilyn Manson
Cover 3: Coil

So I listened to Gloria for the first time just now because I'd never heard the original. Oh man, does that put some things in perspective. Sixties feminism blows off the fucker holding her back goes through a journey to get to metal-brutal glee.

I'm trying to think of what to do with this one. There's an aesthetic change and definitely an interpretation change, moreso from Gloria to Soft Cell, but Marilyn's celebration of fucked up relationships takes it one step further. Soft Cell, unlike Gloria, never gave the impression they really thought they would get away or even wanted to, more that they should. Marilyn just wants to see how bad it can get because fucked up is the fun part.

Coil's blackly depressed, excruciatingly slow, miserable, utterly wrecking version is possibly closer to Gloria's than any of them, and it's still a one-eighty from the positive vibe--no one's getting away in Coil's song. They just wish to God they could, please.

Let's all thank [personal profile] minim_calibre for telling me to find Coil's version. My God.

Okay, that's about--okay, that didn't even put a dent in my covers playlist, but I'm getting uncomfortable with how many times a perky song becomes a heroin addict's anthem of pain and loss. IDEK. I'm not entirely comfortable saying the 00's were clinically depressed for music, but I'm not sure I can argue against it, either.

In the last entry in comments, I mentioned I have a mental Do Not Cover list too (it's very short and clung to with almost religious fevor); one of them is Let It Be by the Beatles, because I've never heard anyone do it and even capture a tenth of the strength and the gorgeousness, much less remix it into their own. Now I wonder if there are any that don't make me grit my teeth. It's not that I think anyone is untouchable, more that the song is simple and the meaning is everything and anything but. Anyone heard a good one?

I also wouldn't mind cover recs. Just not Hallelujah--I just downloaded a new one and I have to wait between them or I hate the new cover too much to listen to it fairly. I think I officially have a Hallelujah playlist.

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Tags: crosspost, music
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