Aug 072013

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

Gary Numan is one of those pioneers who is in the unfortunate position of carrying an albatross for over half his life – but oh, what a tremendous albatross “Cars” is. A chorus-free song about social withdrawal, more than half of which consists of an instrumental fadeout, “Cars” was a chart smash that served as America’s introduction to synth-pop, and if it defined Numan (for better or worse), it also defined an entire genre of music.

“Cars” has been used for auto commercials, the ad execs knowing we the audience would instinctively make the connection. It’s been featured in dozens of ’80s compilations (despite having been released in 1979). It would seem to be impossible for anybody to put their own stamp on the song. And yet, and yet…

Cookin’ On 3 Burners – Cars (Gary Numan cover)

“Cookin’ On 3 Burners are Australia’s hardest hitting Hammond Organ Trio – joining the dots between Deep Funk, Raw Soul, Organ Jazz & Boogaloo.” That’s accordin’ to their website, and all the proof you need is in this instrumental cover of “Cars.” What once was chilly is now smokin’ hot, impossible to sit still to, beggin’ to be sampled, and makin’ it just about impossible to use the “ing” suffix without swappin’ out the G for an apostrophe.

Becky Mills – Cars (Gary Numan cover) is a music channel that specializes in live music recorded in one take. Some would call this a warts-and-all approach, but one would be hard pressed to find a single blemish on Becky Mills’s version of “Cars.” One woman, with one acoustic, uses one take to bring forth one entirely new song as if she was put on earth for just that purpose.

Fear Factory – Cars (Gary Numan cover)

Fear Factory’s cover of “Cars” is the closest of these five to the original. This would be a surprise if you only knew their industrial metal catalog; it would be less of a surprise once you learned that Numan himself contributed his vocals to this version. It served to bring both the band and Numan a wider audience than they’d had before, and proved that not only can you not keep a good one-hit wonder down, you’d be foolish to try.

The C-Nuts – Cars (Gary Numan cover)

The C-Nuts’ 2010 album Blitzkrieg Bop and Other Jazz Mutations features songs from punk and new-wave artists being given the jazz-combo treatment. “Cars” (the only instrumental on the album) serves as a platform here, giving the band a place from which to stretch out and do something that’s very much their own thing.

The Leisure Society – Cars (Gary Numan cover)

The Leisure Society’s cover of “Cars” is flat-out gorgeous. It’s got harmonies, it’s got warmth, it’s got a flute… whatever you love that you couldn’t find in Numan’s original, you’ll find it here, and you’ll wonder how you and the song ever got by without it.

You know the original by heart, but you can still get it for yourself on iTunes and Amazon.

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