A.V. Undercover from the A.V. Club has a very simple equation: 25 songs+25 artists= 25 unique covers. As each band enters the studio they choose from the remaining songs, covering them faithfully, or more often, creatively. The results speak for themselves over the years, from GWAR being stuck with Kansas‘ “Carry on My Wayward Son,” to Iron & Wine‘s version of George Michael‘s “One More Try,” to They Might Be Giants including the staff of the A.V. Club to join in on Chumbawamba‘s “Tubthumping.”
When They Might Be Giants released a new “electronic” version of their 1990 single “Istanbul (Not Constantinople),” one of our writers inquired about whether it was okay to write about a band covering themselves. We were about to say something along the lines of “ehhh…” when we remembered, oh yeah, “Istanbul (Not Constantinople)” has always been a cover. They Might Be Giants’ version is actually a cover of a Four Lads song from 1953, so this weird new electropop version is really them covering their earlier cover. Fair game!
This past week the A.V. Club wrapped up their beloved “Undercover” series with the Fruit Bats’ rendition of Loretta Lynn’s “The Other Woman.” This cover was just one of a myriad of brilliant renditions put forth by various indie rock gods and goddesses over the time span of three months. And seeing as this was a veritable who’s who in indie rock these days, few bands disappointed. The worst it got was average (ie that Smith Westerns take on “American Girl”), but most bands scored at least a 7 out of 10. Given the talent, it would be near impossible to only pick just a couple favorites so we here at Cover Me are choosing ten performances instead. The ten most original, most jaw-dropping, and most “Play it again man!”-inducing covers that were featured this past summer.
Full Albums features covers of every track off a classic album. Got an idea for a future pick? Leave a note in the comments!
Imagine hitting your creative and artistic peak at the tender young age of 23 and then having your personal and professional life completely fall apart, with a descent into drug abuse and mental illness. Brian Wilson‘s life followed such a trajectory after the release of his masterpiece, the Beach Boys’ Pet Sounds. Written with almost no contribution from the rest of the band, Wilson recorded the album’s instrumental tracks while the boys were on tour in Asia without him.
Ah, Chumbawamba, 1997 was such a good year for you. You hit the top ten with a song that was little more than naming various drinks followed by mindless shouting. People were singing your song in bars and stadiums across the nation and the world; how tragically the fortunes have changed. “Tubthumping” is now listed on Rolling Stones‘ “20 Most Annoying Songs” and Chumbawamba became synonymous with “one-hit wonder” before the song even fell off the charts. Who could possibly resurrect your legacy?
The annals of punk rock history will surely remember Less Than Jake’s TV/EP as a novelty record, but in this case I want to employ the word “novelty” in a totally positive sense. Though TV/EP isn’t the first time that punk versions of TV themes have been turned into an album, it is the first time I can think of that a project of that nature has been undertaken with such variety and energy.
TV/EP consists of 16 songs and clocks in at a breathless 11:23; the longest song (the Laverne & Shirley theme) runs 1:15 while the shortest (the Kit Kat jingle) takes up a mere 11 seconds. Yet somehow, and bear with me here, Less Than Jake takes us on a journey in those 11 minutes. It could be the fact that the songs on this album make up a single, unbroken wall of sound—instead of silence between tracks, there’s TV static and the sound of a remote clicking, which almost…almost…create the feeling of a concept album. But the real reason I think this “novelty” album feels so fresh and complete is that it basically covers all of television history.