As you may have heard, this year marks the 50th birthday of the Beatles’ seminal album Revolver. We already put together our own tribute album, but the celebration continued this past weekend with another set of covers. For his radio show, Howard Stern collected all-new recordings of every track by some serious heavy hitters, from vets like James Taylor and Cheap Trick to newer buzz bands like Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats and Milk Carton Kids. And we’ve got every song below.
I’m not sure there were more great cover songs this year than any other. But there were more good ones.
What I mean by that is, the average quality of the covers we come across in the time we’ve been around has risen, rather dramatically. Whether they’re iTunes homepage singles or some guy emailing us his Bandcamp, more cover songs in 2013 avoid the old pitfalls than ever before. They don’t sound like they were recorded in a cereal box, substitute ear-bleeding volume for actual creativity, or – the worst cover sin of all – try to carbon-copying the original. With the ease of production and distribution available now, artists seemed to record covers only when they felt they had something to add, and do a halfway decent job committing those ideas to 1s and 0s.
You don’t hear much from Edie Brickell these days. Perceived mostly as a one-hit (or album) wonder, her 1988 album Shooting Rubberbands At The Stars with band The New Bohemians went double platinum, but she’s only released a few low-profile albums since. Her 1992 marriage to Paul Simon probably took the pressure to perform off as well.
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]