Jan 282022
 

‘The Best Covers Ever’ series counts down our favorite covers of great artists.

best smiths covers

Who was the first band you felt truly understood you? The one who seemed to verbalize your every inexpressible thought with such pinpoint precision, who from the moment you first heard them made every other band that previously occupied your heart cease to matter? If you happened to have come of age in the ’80s, there was only one band in the entire universe that truly understood your pining and suffering. They were called The Smiths, and they totally got you.

The Smiths weren’t like the other (’80s) boys whose blonde highlights, synthesizers, and colorfully androgynous sartorial choices were dominating the pop charts and MTV. While Duran Duran and Wham! swanned on glamorous beaches and aimed themselves straight at your, uh, parts, The Smiths actively avoided the sun and made a beeline for your heart, mind, and bookcase. They didn’t care to make silly videos to promote their wares. Their metaphorical MTV was the music press and Morrissey’s eminently quotable interviews were the key pieces of catnip used to promote the band.

Of course, for all the intellect on display in the magazines, Morrissey was still an immaculately-coiffed heartthrob who knew how to work it in the pictures (Did I write him an unanswered fan letter in 1984 to tell him I loved him? Yes). But the music required no hard selling. Morrissey’s lyrics were revelatory, a magical mix of misery, humor, bitterness, and the embarrassing truth. Who among us hasn’t suffered at some point from “a shyness that is criminally vulgar” or had a “murderous desire for love” or wanted to “hang the DJ”? The union of Morrissey’s immaculate words with Johnny Marr’s chiming guitar melodies made rejection, frustration, and self-loathing sound positively majestic.

Over the years, The Smiths have become something of a code word used to describe the first band that became your friend, the first that looked you straight in your misty eyes, clutched both your hands to their chest, and said “I feel the same way.” This is why the band continues to be covered at such a relentless clip by artists old and new. And it’s why the songs being chosen to cover aren’t confined to the usual cluster of greatest hits. When it comes to The Smiths, it’s just a little more personal.

The Smiths are never, ever getting back together. The years of inter-band sniping far exceed the number that the band was actually together. Hell, as we were finalizing this list this week yet another Moz-Marr dustup occurred. But that’s okay. We don’t need more than they’ve already given. Let’s just celebrate the good times. We now present the 40 most triumphant and charming Smiths covers in the universe. Ready, handsome devils? Let us begin…

– Hope Silverman

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Jan 272022
 
international covers day

Mark your calendars: February 5th is “International Covers Day.” Jana Komankova, a DJ at Prague’s Radio 1, founded the holiday last year during the pandemic and is hoping it will catch on outside the Czech Republic’s borders. We’re certainly happy to support the cause, so we hit her up with a few questions about the new holiday – and some recommendations for interesting Czech cover songs. Continue reading »

Jan 262022
 
wet leg material girl

Wet Leg are a duo from the Isle of Wight who debuted with a viral hit last summer. “Chaise Longue” sounds like a parody of post punk, almost like Flight of the Conchords doing a 21st century, professional version of The Slits or something.

Their cover of “Material Girl” has that same satirical edge, but it’s a lot more muted. It opens with a thudding chord that feels like the distorted echo of a memory of a ’60s pop song, and nothing like Madonna. A buzzing second guitar soon joins in before lead vocalist Rhian Teasdale’s lilting voice joins. She alternates between that lilt, speaking and a slighty more passionate delivery. The music behind her, the thudding rhythm guitar, the plodding drums and the buzzing, shimmery lead guitar, thump out a mechanical that sounds both 21st century and primitive. Continue reading »

Jan 252022
 
adam schlesinger tribute

Back in May 2021, Fountains of Wayne guitarist Jody Porter organized a tribute to his late bandmate Adam Schlesinger. Adam Schlesinger, A Music Celebration featured, among many others, Courtney Love, R.E.M.’s Peter Buck, Squeeze’s Glenn Tilbrook, Dashboard Confessional’s Chris Carrabba, Sean Ono Lennon, and a reunion of Schlesinger’s supergroup Tinted Windows. At the time, it was a paid livestream to raise money for musician charity MusiCares and then-closed NYC venue Bowery Electric, but now the full thing is up on YouTube. It’s a tribute to the depth of Schlesinger’s catalog that it’s two hours long and no one even covered “Stacy’s Mom”! Continue reading »

Jan 242022
 
jungle giants one kiss

Brisbane based Aussie indie rockers The Jungle Giants recently appeared on Australian radio station Triple J, where they performed thier track “Love Signs” as well as a cover of Calvin Harris and Dua Lipa‘s “One Kiss.” “We picked the song because we’ve all kind of been Dua Lipa addicts, we’ve just been following her religiously.” said vocalist Sam Hales. “One of my favorite elements of the track is that it’s really quite housey but it’s really pretty. So, when we were trying to make it we tried to follow that kind of arrangement.” Continue reading »

Jan 212022
 

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

California Dreamin' covers

Michelle Phillips had never seen snow before. She grew up in Mexico and California, so when she went to New York to stay at the Earle Hotel with her husband John, she didn’t have the right clothes. The couple had spent the day walking together, stopping by a church to warm up in the process. The next morning, John woke her up and told her to write this down.

“This” was the start of “California Dreamin’,” the Mamas and the Papas’ first big hit. It was earmarked to be Barry McGuire’s next big hit after “Eve of Destruction” – they’d recorded the backing vocals for him and everything – but then the powers that be decided to strip McGuire’s lead and add Denny Doherty’s. The Mamas and the Papas version came out first, and in Los Angeles, it did nothing. But in Boston, a town that knows a thing or two about wishing for warmth in the dead of winter, it hit big, and from there it soon made it to all of America. (Even if most of America, including Cass Elliott herself, misheard the lyric “I got down on my knees / And I pretend to pray” as “I began to pray.”)
Continue reading »