Five Good Covers presents five cross-genre reinterpretations of an oft-covered song.
In two years, the New Order classic Power, Corruption & Lies will be 30. New Wave synth often doesn’t stand the test of time, but many tracks on the album sound as great today as they did in 1983. The longevity of New Order’s sound is evidenced by the number of current bands who choose to cover their songs, particularly Power, Corruption & Lies‘ sprawling opener, “Age of Consent.”
1. Arcade Fire is arguably the most famous act to cover “Age of Consent,” and they’ve done so in two very different ways. They performed a low-key version of the track at French festival Rock en Seine in 2007, letting Win Butler’s vocals take the lead with a frame of muted percussion from the other band members (including tambourine and impromptu drumming on an upright bass). The result is similar to early Arcade Fire tracks like “Une Année Sans Lumiere.” Their other live “Age of Consent” performances stay closer to the source material, upping the tempo and adding a string section. While the first incarnation lets Butler run with the emotion of the lyrics, the second is musically more lush.
2. Thursday 29 take the track in a very different direction in their contribution to the 2000 New Order tribute album Thieves Like Us. Their “Age of Consent” begins with a lengthy introduction of distorted electro. The song is nearly unrecognizable until the lyrics cut in, and even then the layers of murky, gothic sound take it far from New Wave territory.
3. San Francisco act Geographer keeps the synths, but trades New Order’s jittery arrangement for a more laid-back feel in their cover. The resulting track, released as a b-side for the single “Kites,” has a slow-building low-fi dance sensibility that might remind listeners of LCD Soundsystem. In fact, it makes you wonder what “Age of Consent” would sound like in James Murphy’s hands.
4. Like many of their peers, veteran alt-rockers Buffalo Tom slow “Age of Consent” down for their cover, available for free download on the four-song EP Bones. Cover aficionado Bill Janovitz’s vocals are the centerpiece of the track, but the grungy crunch of the guitars also stamps their trademark sound firmly on the song.
5. The award for most unusual “Age of Consent” cover goes to Slang Chickens. The Los Angeles band joins the growing bluegrass trend and swaps out New Order’s synths for banjo and mandolin. The melancholy tones of bluegrass are a perfect match for the lyrics, and the genre switch proves how versatile a really great song can be.
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