When artists take on a cover, one can truly never know what to expect. The temperaments of musicians and their strongly-held notions of what is classic and what is terrible can be like the precisely correct atoms in a chemical reaction – get something just slightly out of balance and the whole thing will explode and kill everyone.
The girls of Azure Ray excel at folksy wistfulness and dreamy nostalgia. Their pitch-perfect harmonies and fragile melodies make their songs perfect falling asleep or spacing out music. “Trees Keep Growing,” off their 2002 album Burn & Shine, is an excellent example. Or, it was. Cursive frontman Tim Kasher’s crashing new cover will keep you very much awake.
Each song on The Queen is Dead is such a perfect alt-pop gem, listening to the whole album is almost too much. But Morrissey is not about to throw in some filler just to let the listener catch a breath. The indie movement has been trying to replicate this album for the past twenty years. They have yet to succeed.
The Ukrainians – The Queen Is Dead
Technically, this is not “The Queen Is Dead,” but rather “Koroleva Ne Pomerla.” Yep, that band name is no cute moniker. This bit Eastern European choral-punk (a new genre?) stomps and swings like whirling dervish chanting channeled through Sid Vicious. [Buy]
Cursive – Frankly, Mr. Shankly
This one goes from grunge to lounge to hard rock…and that’s just the first 45 seconds! It’s like ten covers in one, utilizing drum pounds here, cello screeches there, indie goodness everywhere! [Buy]
Pale Sunday – I Know It’s Over
You’re not quite sure whether to bang your head or try some flamenco moves in this one (I think the woodblock is the culprit here). Above it all hovers that haunting melody, accusing as much as it pities. [Buy]
Billy Bragg – Never Had No One Ever
Bragg has never been known for his singing, but on the quiet strummer his lazy drawl’s search for the tune hits you straight in the chest. This one comes off The Smiths Is Dead, another full-album tribute worth getting. [Buy]
The Very Most – Cemetry Gates
In this live one from the fine folks at archive.org, The Very Most prove that an acoustic guitar and tambourine are all one needs to accompany Morrissey’s unusual lyrics and catchy melody. When he wrote this one, Keats, Yates, and Wilde were all on his side. [Buy]
Matteo Scumaci – Bigmouth Strikes Again
Subtle guitar plucking complements Matteo’s Italian accent, carrying him gently along as he sings oh-so-sweetly about bludgeoning his woman toothless. Morrissey always was a romantic. [Buy]
J Mascis – The Boy with the Thorn in His Side
There are a lot of covers of this one, including one by Jeff Buckley that suffers from shaky recording quickly. Not so here, as the Dinosaur Jr. frontman slashes at his acoustic guitar while he snarls like he’s got a couple thorns in him himself. [Buy]
Damage Done By Worms – Vicar in a Tutu
The phenomenal band name covers a “psychobilly” acoustic punk band like the Violent Femmes with an Eastern European accent. The saloon piano solo in the middle sounds like the soundtrack to a Quentin Tarantino barroom brawl. [Buy]
Nada Surf – There Is a Light That Never Goes Out
So many covers of this one stay so close to the original, I set out to find one that did something drastically different. I found several, all of which terrible. When covering a perfect song, sometimes not straying too far can be good advice. [Buy]
Supergrass – Some Girls Are Bigger Than Others
Fellow Brits Supergrass built the alternative rock up to distortion-punk hollers. Some songs are bigger than others too, and this one is bloody enormous [Buy]