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.
Mark your calendar for March 29th. SIN-atra, the heavy metal tribute to Frank Sinatra, hits stores on that date. The album features members of Anthrax, Deep Purple, Warrant, Cheap Trick and others covering their favorite Sinatra tunes. For those who are having difficulty imagining this sound, check out Dee Snider’s take on “It Was a Very Good Year” below. As if that combination wasn’t strange enough, it works in some of Led Zeppelin‘s “Kashmir.” The song translates to metal shockingly well, although Ol’ Blue Eyes may have begged to differ if he was still around.
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.
For many bands, rocking you hard isn’t enough. They feel the need to tell you how hard they’re rocking you. So as a tribute to the many groups too insecure to let the music speak for itself…let there be rock.
Ludwig Van 88 – We Will Rock You (Queen)
I don’t know when Ludwig plans on rocking me, but until then I’ll settle for being pleasantly reggaeed. [Buy]
Patti Smith – So You Want to Be (A Rock’n’Roll Star) (The Byrds)
Having established herself as cover artist extraordinaire with “Gloria,” Patti’s fourth album threw in this Byrds tune. It hews a little closer to the original, but Smith’s punk spitting strips aways the polish of the original to show what being a rock star is really about. [Buy]
Roxanne Morgens – Rock’n’Roll Ain’t Noise Pollution (AC/DC)
Half of the AC/DC catalogue could be used here; those boys love to talk about how hard they rock (more evidence here). Morgens rocks a lot more quietly though, proving that sensitive folk music isn’t noise pollution either. [Buy]
We Are Scientists – Bang Bang Rock and Roll (Art Brut)
For a co-headlining tour with Art Brut a few years ago, the pair put out a tour-only EP that featured them covering each others songs. Art Brut tackled “The Great Escape,” but did a far worse job. [Buy]
Bruce Springsteen – Rockin’ All Over the World (John Fogerty)
Though Bruce deals with more original subjects for his own material, his live covers tend to have a theme. Seven Nights to Rock, Good Rockin’ Tonight, I Don’t Want to Hang Up My Rock’n’Roll Shoes, etc. His focus on rocking is justified by the exuberance of the performances. [Buy]
Twisted Sister – It’s Only Rock ‘n’ Roll (But I Like It) (The Rolling Stones)
Oh Twisted Sister, you can’t possibly take yourselves seriously. They stretch it out for over ten minutes in this live raver that features plenty of aggressive crowd participation. [Buy]
Hayseed Dixie – I Love Rock’n’Roll (The Arrows)
This bluegrass cover band got their start doing AC/DC tunes (hence the name), but have since taken on from The Cars to Spinal Tap. Here they do Joan Jett – wait, I mean The Arrows. That’s right, Joan’s huge hit was in fact a cover, and not a very creative one. I’m sure the royalties have been keeping those Arrows boys in gold-plated diapers for years now. [Buy]
Rasputina – Rock and Roll (Led Zeppelin)
Cello goth lends itself to covers far better than one would imagine. Sounds like it’s been a very long time since she’s rocked and rolled – centuries, perhaps. [Buy]
Laptop – It’s Still Rock’n’Roll to Me (Billy Joel)
Billy Joel is criminally under-covered, but this group does it right, turning one of his biggest hits into a weird electronic dirge. [Buy]
The Alarm – Rocking in the Free World (Neil Young)
This cover doesn’t veer very far from the original, but when the original’s so good, does it need to? For a more adventurous take though, check out this post. [Buy]
The original theme for this post was Motown, but I was more interested in the sound than who was officially on the Motown label, so to avoid controversy…girl groups, whatever label they were on. In great song lists, these often get overlooked as being to simple or syrupy, but these are high-quality (if not to lyrically stimulating) songs. The production on the originals, often courtesy of Phil Spector, was superb, but these covers stand on their own without all that orchestrated sound.
We Are Scientists – Be My Baby (The Ronettes)
Some fuzzy distortion that rocks out the original but, in the end, stays just faithful enough.
Grizzly Bear – He Hit Me (It Felt Like a Kiss) (The Crystals)
This one’s been making the blog rounds for the last year or so, but it lives up the the hype. One of the most disturbing girl group songs, Grizzly Bear’s slow and languid performance brings out the uncomfortable domestic abuse of the lyrics. Creepy.
The Afghan Whigs – Come See About Me (The Supremes)
Indie-rock freakout on this live recording from the Cincinnati quartet, starting slow and ending in frenetic drum facemelt.
Smith – Baby It’s You (The Shirelles)
A big hit in its own right, the Death Proof soundtrack revived this soul gem with organ trills and a singer who jumps from loud to soft and back smoothly and keeps the song lively.
Ruby Rats – Heatwave (Martha and the Vandellas)
Organ-drenched cover from the 60’s by the ultra-obscure Ruby Rats. Couldn’t find much information on them online, except nothing they’ve done has ever been issued on CD, so excuse the fuzziness of this vinyl transfer.
Bob Dylan and George Harrison – Da Doo Ron Ron (The Crystals)
From a jam session in ’69, neither one really knows the words, or realizes that this recording will ever leak into the bootleg world. So it’s loose and fun, enjoyable to listen to if not stunning.
Paris Bennett – My Boyfriend’s Back (The Angels)
I can’t believe I’m putting a song by an American Idol contestant up here, but it’s a nice reworking that replaces the handclaps with computerized beats. What the song would sound like if it were a new release today…which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Also funny “street” lyric changes about how “it’s me that he’s reppin’ / So you better be steppin’.”
Jane Olivor – He’s So Fine (The Chifons)
A slowed-down operatic version, with some Spanish guitar and smooth sax. The novelty feel quickly disappears as you forget the bounce of the original and the song works just as well this way too.
Twisted Sister – Leader of the Pack (The Shangri-Las)
Amazing how the transsexual hair-metal crew can use their sound to give pretty much the same feel as the original. Dee Snyder hits basically the same notes as the original singer, but the backing vocals are what keep it interesting in a Summer Loving vein.
Broadzilla – Love Child (The Supremes)
All-female punk rock like a more aggressive Blondie, the angry nasal whine over the distortion gives a very different feel over the original. Certainly suits the lyrics, which are very less warm and fuzzy than Diana Ross and co. would have you believe.