Sep 042020
 

Today a double album’s worth of material is being released to celebrate the U.K.’s legends of glam rock – Marc Bolan and his band, T.Rex. Coinciding with the group’s long-overdue induction into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in November, AngelHeaded Hipster (its name culled from Allen Ginsberg’s famous poem, “Howl”) features 26 covers of classic T-Rex songs by a diverse collection of artists ranging from Kesha to King Khan and U2 to Nick Cave.

AngelHeaded Hipster is produced by the late Hal Willner – who sadly passed away from complications from Covid-19 this past April. In the liner notes, Willner said, “As I was listening and getting familiar with all of Bolan’s work, I discovered that this guy was actually a great composer…I put him in the same pantheon as other composers that I’ve explored before (Kurt Weill, Thelonious Monk, Nino Rota, etc.). So, the concept for the album became to show Bolan as a composer…”

And he goes on to do exactly that.
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Sep 022019
 

Five Good Covers presents five cross-genre reinterpretations of an oft-covered song.

Bikini Kill

2019 marks the return of the riot grrrl. Bikini Kill, Sleater-Kinney, L7, and Team Dresch, all formative riot grrrl bands, have reunited in 2019 to play tours and (in some cases) even release new music. In the era of the #MeToo movement, increasing abortion restrictions, and the struggles of the LGBTQ community to find acceptance, riot grrrls sense that they are needed, and they’re coming back. The riot grrrl movement was a punk musical movement, but it was also a political movement; lyrics took on weighty topics, promoted feminism, and unabashedly commented on politics. This week we celebrate riot grrls, and thank them for speaking up and pushing for equality through their music. 

It only seems right to kick off a week of riot grrrl posts with Bikini Kill, often considered the founding band of the movement. Founded in Olympia, Washington, home to the early riot grrrl scene, in 1990, the band is made up of singer Kathleen Hanna, drummer Toby Vail, guitarist Billy Karren, and bassist Kathi Wilcox. Before disbanding in 1997, Bikini Kill recorded five albums, demanding “girls to the front” at their shows. Afterwards, the members went on to other musical projects. Most notably, Hanna became part of Le Tigre, the rock band known for its liberal political statements. Ironically, Hillary Clinton’s campaign tried to use “Rebel Girl” in a campaign video, but Vail requested that it be removed.

In 2006, when Rolling Stone picked the best songs of each year since 1967, Bikini Kill’s “Rebel Girl” was deemed the best of 1993. But this song is not just a song for the ’90s (not to mention a refreshing break from heteronormative lyrics), it’s an emblem, an anthem for everyone fighting injustice in this world. 

When she talks, I hear the revolution
In her hips, there’s revolution
When she walks, the revolution’s coming
In her kiss, I taste the revolution


These covers span the spectrum from screaming to singing, and they choose a variety of tempos marked by a steady metronomic drum beat. 

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Jan 232018
 

review dr demento covered in punkLet’s be blunt: No one needs novelty songs.

Loosely defined as “a satirical or comedic parody of popular music,” most people instinctively leave the room – or the house – at the first whiff.

Or do they? What, then, explains the enduring popularity of Dr. Demento, querulous-voiced prankster and legitimate, if puzzling, cultural icon? A rock ’n roll writer, label A&R man, and sometime roadie, he began broadcasting a rock and oldies show at Pasadena station KPPC in 1970. He quickly found that the novelty songs he slipped in – notably Nervous Norvus’ “Transfusion,” a truly demented tale about reckless driving, and a precursor to the Cramps’ psychobilly – were what his listeners really wanted to hear.

Now 76, Dr. Demento – a.k.a. Barret Eugene Hansen – ceased terrestrial radio broadcast in 2010, though his program persists online. And now we’re treated to Dr. Demento Covered in Punk, by some counts his 15th official album release. If you’re already hooked on the good doctor’s offbeat charms, you’re likely not in need of encouragement to purchase this collection of supposedly “punk” covers (more on that later) interspersed with the Doctor’s commentary. But can we rightfully recommend this 2+ hour compilation to the rest of the record-buying public? The answer, surprisingly, is: “Yes!” Sort of.

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Jul 282017
 

Full Albums features covers of every track off a classic album. Got an idea for a future pick? Leave a note in the comments!

sly and the family stone

Sly and the Family Stone hadn’t recorded anything new in a year, and the record label wanted to keep Sly’s name in the public consciousness – and if they could make a little money in the bargain, so much the better. So they put together Sly and the Family Stone’s Greatest Hits. If not a cynical cash grab, it was at least within smelling distance.

But a funny thing happened – they scooped up some of the best singles of the sixties, when Sly Stone was writing songs emphasizing the coming together of all races, creeds, and colors into one big party, and the result was what Robert Christgau called “among the greatest rock and roll LPs of all time.” In his A+ review, he went on:

The rhythms, the arrangements, the singing, the playing, the production, and–can’t forget this one–the rhythms are inspirational, good-humored, and trenchant throughout, and on only one cut (“Fun”) are the lyrics merely competent. Sly Stone’s gift for irresistible dance songs is a matter of world acclaim, but his gift for political anthems that are uplifting but never simplistic or sentimental is a gas. And oh yeah–his rhythms are amazing.

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Oct 222014
 

Welcome to Cover Me Q&A, where we take your questions about cover songs and answer them to the best of our ability.

Here at Cover Me Q&A, we’ll be taking questions about cover songs and giving as many different answers as we can. This will give us a chance to hold forth on covers we might not otherwise get to talk about, to give Cover Me readers a chance to learn more about individual staffers’ tastes and writing styles, and to provide an opportunity for some back-and-forth, as we’ll be taking requests (learn how to do so at feature’s end).

Today’s question, courtesy of staffer Jordan Becker: What’s a cover song you hate, and why?
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Feb 262014
 

In the Spotlight showcases a cross-section of an artist’s cover work. View past installments, then post suggestions for future picks in the comments!

In the 1980s, there was one artist that Minneapolis became known for. And that was Prince.

But if you took the bus to the bad part of town, watching the blight and the snowy misery go by through fogged up windows, you would eventually spot a burned-out, abandoned, and graffiti-tagged little red Corvette: perched up on blocks, stuffed with liquor bottles in the back seat, and harboring a coffee can in the front filled to the brim with cigarette butts. If you opened the door, you would find a floor littered with cassettes. K-Tel. Kiss. Big Star. And if you ran the VIN number, you’d find the owner to be the Replacements.
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