Sep 142018

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!

Airborne Toxic Event covers

It’s been a while since the Airborne Toxic Event has raised its collective voice. They’ve made many hints about an upcoming album, but no soap radio. They’ve played just half a dozen gigs in the last two and a half years. Founder Mikel Jollett keeps up a steady stream on his Twitter page, but the band’s tweets have slowed to a trickle. Last month they did note the tenth anniversary of the release of their debut album, which prompted one reader to ask if they’d ever release any new music. “Yes,” came the response, but with no elaboration. It’s enough to give the heebie jeebie jitters to the band’s sizable cult, who want to know what they’re going to do next and when they’re going to do it… if at all.

While we’re holding our collective breath and turning from cornflower to cerulean to cobalt, let’s take a look at some of the covers TATE has graced us with over their decade of playing.

The Airborne Toxic Event – Sunday Morning Coming Down (Kris Kristofferson cover)

Kris Kristofferson called his tale of blearily facing the morning after the night before “the song that allowed me to quit working for a living.” Jollett’s acoustic cover, recorded for Boston’s WFNX, won’t make you forget Johnny Cash’s version, but it’s not supposed to. It’s far more lonely, far more remote, and the pain it holds feels far deeper for being honestly alone, and not alone in a crowd.

The Airborne Toxic Event – I’m On Fire (Bruce Springsteen cover)

For a while, TATE took cover requests on their YouTube channel and whipped up their own versions of fan faves. Here they are tackling Bruce Springsteen’s much-covered “I’m On Fire.” It’s a long way from what they would grow into, but there’s a cheery scrappiness to this cover that makes me smile.

The Airborne Toxic Event – The Book of Love (The Magnetic Fields cover)

Stephin Merritt has expressed surprise over how often “The Book of Love” is played at weddings. Considering its lugubrious pace and its use of the words “boring” and “dumb,” he may have a point. (Full disclosure, speaking as someone who used the song at my own wedding: he may not.) But I think he’d approve not only of this TATE cover, but the circumstances that prompted it. Jollett tells of his dying grandmother requesting a song, but not one of his own, and liking what he chose to sing her. She’s not alone.

The Airborne Toxic Event – Boots of Spanish Leather (Bob Dylan cover)

TATE appeared on just a few tribute albums, but they made their appearances count, whether saluting McCartney or Muppets. Their take on Bob Dylan’s “Boots of Spanish Leather,” from the Chimes of Freedom tribute album, gives a fuller sound to his breakup ballad, and the warmth of the original is amplified as well.

The Airborne Toxic Event – Goodbye Horses (Q Lazzarus cover)

TATE gives a faithful, strong reading of the first half of Q. Lazzarus’s “Goodbye Horses.” But after the second chorus, something happens. Decibel by decibel, they get louder and more powerful, like a plane taxiing down a runaway. When they hit the final lyric section, it feels like they’ve really taken off. It’s a thrilling moment, all the more so for being in a live setting.

Keep watching the skies at the Airborne Toxic Event’s webpage.

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