One of the hottest bands in the bluegrass and jamband scene, Greensky Bluegrass never seem to stop touring. As evidenced by their three appearances at last week’s Telluride Bluegrass Festival, the band is working hard in support of their latest release, Handguns.
When presented with a series of cover albums called Guilt by Association, one might imagine them to be filled with ironic takes on cheesy pop songs; that threat’s only increased by a volume that promises to present only songs that fall under the classification of “hair metal,” perhaps the most mocked of all genres. Fortunately, Guilt by Association Vol. 3 betrays no sign of hipster bands mocking songs that some people (this reviewer) legitimately love. Instead, it finds a collection of young, talented acts embracing some admittedly overwrought material from the 1980s and truly making it their own. By any metric, Guilt by Association can be considered a success.
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!
Even though the site you’re currently reading focuses solely on cover music, we seldom turn our attention to actual cover acts. Today, though, we’re going to spotlight one that’s risen to a level of notoriety much higher than most of their bar-dwelling brethren — Steel Panther, the most rockin’ band in the land. This four-piece group, comprised of lead vocalist Michael Starr, guitarist Satchel, bassist Lexxi Foxxx and drummer Stix Zadinia (get it?!) expertly merge tremendous musical chops and keen comic sensibilities to both pay tribute to ’80s hair metal icons and lay bare all the ridiculousness inherent to the genre. Through a regular Monday residency on LA’s Sunset Strip, Panther (formerly Metal Skool, Metal Shop and Danger Kitty) has built an impressive following out of their celebratory shows. In fact, the group’s been embraced by LA’s indie comedy community just as much as the world of rock music; in a hilarious episode of the Comedy Bang Bang podcast, they joke with Human Giant and Children’s Hospital star Rob Huebel that he’s the fifth member of their band, and Sarah Silverman has appeared in their music video for “Death to All but Metal.”
When The Darkness hit the scene in the 2003, critics began braying about the “hair metal revival.” Well, as it turned out that “revival” was pretty much confined to one band and, really, to one song. Once college kids got sick of shredding their vocal chords trying to hit the “I Believe in a Thing Called Love” high notes, hair metal slunk back to 1984. This is probably a good thing, though it did produce some memorable songs the first time around.
Bran Van 3000 – Cum on Feel the Noize (Slade / Quiet Riot) [Buy]
Slade had a hit in the U.K. with this rock and roll tribute to poor spelling, but it took Quiet Riot’s glammed-up cover to bring it stateside. Sadly, the subdued dance version by Montreal electronica collective Bran Van 3000 (best known for “Drinking in L.A.) didn’t have the same impact.
My Morning Jacket – Home Sweet Home (Mötley Crüe) [Buy]
After three hours of heavy rain, it was 3 a.m. and all but the most devoted fans had left My Morning Jacket’s epic Bonnaroo 2008 set. Those who remained were treated to this one-time-only Crüe cöver, with a special appearance by Zach Galfianakis (dressed as Little Orphan Annie).
The Swirling Eddies – Sing Along Song (Stryper) [Buy]
When Christian music apes a popular trend, it tends to be accused (fairly) of presenting a watered-down version of the real thing. Not Stryper. If anything, they made hair metal more outrageous with yellow and black spandex, extra makeup, and songs about Jesus. [more Christian rock covers]
The Diamond Family Archive – Here I Go Again (Whitesnake) [Buy]
DFA’s Laurence Collyer says a friend described this song as the soundtrack of his life. A lingerie-clad model splayed across a Jaguar? I wish this was what my life sounded like! [more Diamond Family Archive covers]
The Breeders – Lord of the Thighs (Aerosmith) [Buy]
In their “60 Cover Versions That Rattle the State of Song” article, The Wire wrote, “As sung by Josephine Wiggs, The Breeders’ version of Aerosmith’s ‘Lord Of The Thighs’ did as much to upend 1970s and 80s cock rock as anything in the grunge era.” A bit of an exaggeration perhaps, but still, good song.
Reel Big Fish – Nothin’ But a Good Time (Poison) [Buy]
Reel Big Fish’s 2009 covers album Fame, Fortune and Fornication took on not one, but two Poison songs (the other was “Talk Dirty to Me”). The horn part reminds me of “Disco Inferno.” [more Poison covers]
Emm Gryner – Pour Some Sugar on Me (Def Leppard) [Buy]
Girl Versions finds Gryner putting here piano chick-pop spin on songs by male songwriters from Ozzy to Fugazi. Somehow even the most unlikely choices sound like lite radio staples. [more Def Leppard covers]
Pernilla Andersson – Don’t Let Me Down (Twisted Sister) [Buy]
White taking hair metal to its natural transgendered extreme, Twisted Sister created two of the most enduring headbangers in “We’re Not Gonna Take It” and “I Wanna Rock” (each featuring a fantastic Animal House-spoofing music video). Sweden’s Pernilla Andersson makes the quiet case for one of their lesser-known tunes.
Toy Dolls – The Final Countdown (Europe) [Buy]
Someday someone will find a way to cover this song that isn’t fantastic. From Laibach’s heavy industrial to these guys’ kazoos though, I haven’t heard it yet.
The Lost Fingers – You Give Love a Bad Name (Bon Jovi) [Buy]
In 2008 the Lost Fingers gave the world Lost in the 80s, a fantastic cover album that brought everyone from AC/DC to Technotronic to a funky bluegrass hoedown. The fact that the lead singer sounds like he’s losing his voice here only adds authenticity.
It’s a good week to be a florist. Valentine’s Day is around the corner and roses are selling like a product that actually has some practical value. No, I never quite saw the romance in a present that will make you bleed if you hold it the wrong way. I think this is why no one ever gives me roses. That and the fact that I’m a guy.
Sexton Blake – Rose Parade (Elliott Smith)
You don’t forget the first time you hear Elliott Smith. I remember hearing the first notes of “Speed Trials,” the first track off Either/Or, and realizing I had some catching up to do. Covers of Elliott Smith songs are unusual in one regard: they tend to be better the less they change. [Buy]
Cassandra Wilson – For the Roses (Joni Mitchell)
Joni called this song her “first farewell to show business,” taking a leave of absence after putting out her 1972 album of the same name. It’s hard to imagine any record executive extracted the intended message from the dense imagery though. [Buy]
The Twilight Singers – Roses (Outkast)
One of the strangest pop hits of the last decade. André 3000 and Big Boi goof on golden calculators, support bras and boo-boo, yet it all takes an uncomfortable turn with that disturbingly detailed death fantasy. “Just playin’,” huh? I’m not sure you are… [Buy]
Joan Baez – Rose of Sharon (Eliza Gilkyson)
For decades Baez’s voice was a love-it-or-hate-it-instrument, but in her latter years that glass-shattering soprano has softened to a point that anyone would be moved. Baez opened with this when I saw her live a few years back, a few months before the album came out. [Buy]
Waitswatcher – Trampled Rose (Tom Waits)
Last year Robert Plant and Alison Krauss brought this 2004 Tom Waits song to a vast audience on their Grammy-winning Raising Sand. This instrumental recording may be more obscure, but it’s no less haunting. [Buy]
The Persuasions – It Must Have Been the Roses (Grateful Dead)
The Persuasions record for the Frankly A Cappella label, but that genre designation does not do justice to the deep gospel and soul flowing through their rich vocal arrangements. You might think the music Grateful Dead would be a poor fit, but after listening to Might As Well…The Persuasions Sing the Grateful Dead you’ll never hear the songs the same away again. [Buy]
Maleficent – Where the Wild Roses Grow (Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds)
Who knew a duet between a young girl and her killer could be so romantic? A little less so when shouted perhaps, but the bat-out-of-hell guitar in the background keeps the mantra “All beauty must die” as chilling as ever. [Buy]
The Housewives – Rose Tint My World (The Rocky Horror Picture Show)
The Housewives sound like early Blondie squalling out with Ray Manzarek backing on organ. [Buy]
Everything But the Girl – English Rose (The Jam)
Whatever song Everything But the Girl touches turns to cover gold. They seem to have gone on indefinite hiatus, but their Covers EP should keep you in good hands until they return. [Buy]
Rex Hobart – Every Rose Has Its Thorn (Poison)
Brett Michaels was a sensitive soul long before Rock of Love. [Buy]