50. Future Bible Heroes – Don’t You Want Me (The Human League cover)
Reproductions: Songs of The Human League scaled down The Human League’s synthpop masterpieces, getting a variety of younger indiepop acts to cover hits like “The Sound of the Crowd” (Superheroes) and “Seconds” (Clicks). The biggest act, and the best, might be Future Bible Heroes. “Who?” you say. It’s a synthy side project of The Magnetic Fields’ Stephin Meritt and Claudia Gonson. They honor the spirit of the original “Don’t You Want Me,” while making it sound like it was recorded in a bedroom.
49. The Dandy Warhols – Hell’s Bells (AC/DC cover)
Another tribute album that came out in 2000 was Metalliska: A Ska Tribute To 80s Metal. It was, frankly, not that good (though I will defend Reel Big Fish’s “Kiss Me Deadly”). Spiritually similar to that album, though better than anything on it, is The Dandy Warhol’s cover of AC/DC’s 1980 hit “Hell’s Bells.” It’s not ska, but it does have a prominent horn line. Call it mariachi-rock.
48. Goldfinger – 99 Red Balloons (Nena cover)
As I mentioned in the intro, I’m also going to post a companion piece: “The Most Extremely ‘2000’ Covers of 2000.” Covers that truly exemplify the era, whether good or bad. They’re mostly bad. Goldfinger’s “99 Red Balloons” fits solidly in that camp – the lead singer’s bleached spiky hair alone! – but, unlike most of its contemporaries, it actually holds up. They get bonus points for actually reverting to the original German partway through, and doing a halfway-decent job at the pronunciation.
47. Hannah Marcus – Looking for Space (John Denver cover)
The tribute album was still soaring its mid-90s heights at the turn of the century, so it’s no surprise that so many of these early selections come off tributes. Honestly, any number of covers off Take Me Home: A Tribute to John Denver could have made the cut, from “Back Home Again” by Low to “The Eagle and the Hawk” by Bonnie “Prince” Billy, who we’ll meet again momentarily. But in the end, nothing bested a lesser-known musician, Hannah Marcus, and her stunning “Looking for Space.”
46. Bonnie “Prince” Billy – Little Boy Blue (Bobby “Blue” Bland cover)
Bonnie “Prince” Billy has been prolific for his entire career, and he had a number of covers competing with each other for the top spot. Two even had the same title! On his EP Little Boy Blue, he covered two songs with that title, one by George Jones that’s good and one by Bobbie “Blue” Bland that’s even better. As if that wasn’t synchronicity enough, he also tacked on a version of Anita Carter’s similarly-titled “Boy Blue.”
45. Eels – Open the Door (Magnapop cover)
Magnapop’s “Open the Door” was only a few years old when Eels covered it for the b-side of their “Flyswatter” single. If you don’t know or remember the original, it doesn’t matter. Mark Oliver Everett aka E brings his usual gravel-voiced pathos to this stripped-down cover. The guitar chords echo a similarly titled song: Pete Townshend’s “Let My Love Open the Door.”
44. Geoffrey Oryema – Listening Wind (Talking Heads cover)
When I wrote my 33 1/3 book on I’m Your Fan: The Songs of Leonard Cohen, one of the tracks that became a favorite off that 1991 tribute album was by a Ugandan musician I hadn’t known prior, Geoffrey Oryema. Nine later, he brought the Talking Heads’ African-inspired sound back to the continent, almost two decades before Angelique Kidjo got a ton of attention doing the same thing.
43. Rage Against the Machine – The Ghost of Tom Joad (Bruce Springsteen cover)
Rage Against the Machine took on some unexpected artists on their 2000 covers album Renegades, from Devo to Dylan. But perhaps most surprising was a recent Bruce Springsteen acoustic song, the title track to his 1996 solo album The Ghost of Tom Joad. Rage dumped that “acoustic” part right quick, and Bruce himself appreciated the new approach. First he started playing it a similar way himself live, then he went a step further by inviting Rage’s Tom Morello to join the E Street Band for a tour.
42. Five Iron Frenzy – It’s Not Unusual (Tom Jones cover)
It wouldn’t be 2000 without a goofy ska cover. Christian ska band Five Iron Frenzy would do better covers – I genuinely think their version of Electric Light Orchestra’s “Sweet Talkin’ Woman” is really good – but none more fun than “It’s Not Unusual.”
41. Michael Stanley – Eleanor Rigby (The Beatles)
I kept wanting to dismiss this as new age schlock, and it veers close at times. This screams 1980 more than 2000. But Stanley’s rearrangement of the melody and killer guitar lines save it.
The list continues on Page 3.