Feb 252022

Go back to the beginning

40. Scout Niblett – Just What I Needed

I freely confess this may not be for all. Indeed, I find it one more to admire than enjoy, enjoy because of the chutzpah more than the performance. With a voice pitched somewhere between Tiny Tim and Joanna Newsom, it starts off as a straightforward no-frills slo-mo acoustic take, albeit with the quirk of her vocal charm. But the middle eight boogie forgives her for all the extraneous yeahs scattered across the slow bits, it then becoming quite endearing. Well, a little. Now if that had progressed into the whole of the song, we’d be really talking. — Seuras Og

39. The Erratic Retaliator Strategy – Why Can’t I Have You

Both the original and this cover have distinctive openings, the former with its lurking beat and synths on the verge of back up singer “ba da”s and the latter with deep syncopation and soulful guitar. Both have similar vocals: deep but, frankly, a little whiny. At times, this version sounds a little like being serenaded outside of our window, perhaps with a little liquid courage involved, the tone battling between charming and stalkerish. Even the synth solo sounds earnest. The same vibe is present in the original, but perhaps not as overtly, masked by smooth choruses and a lighter touch on the synth. — Sara Stoudt

38. Alkaline Trio – Bye Bye Love

The Cars’ self-titled album does not have a weak track, which is why seven of its nine songs appear on this list, sometimes more than once. “Bye Bye Love” pre-dates the formation of the band and was written by Ric Ocasek and sung by Benjamin Orr. It was not released as a single, but its catchiness still garnered it significant airplay. One of the things that made the Cars stand out in 1978 was the way that they were able to combine the edginess of new wave with the sheen of pop, and do so without really alienating either camp. Alkaline Trio from Chicago released their cover on a split 7-inch single in 2000, and it tips the scales towards the punk side, with rougher edges than the original, to good effect. It kind of sounds like what I thought the Cars might sound like live, without the studio magic, but I was wrong; in concert they sounded exactly like their records. — Jordan Becker

37. Ernie Isley – Let’s Go

More “Summer Breeze” than “This Old Heart of Mine,” with guitar glissandos and funky bass, Isley Brother Ernie makes “Let’s Go” his own, with still enough a hefty whack of “noo wave” whack to make it recognizable. Like Mssrs. Seals and Crofts, Ric and the boys will have to credit he done a great harvesting of it, giving both new life and legs. — Seuras Og

36. Byzantine – Moving In Stereo

The original starts ominously yet otherworldly, making me think of the space-y Europe’s “Final Countdown” and Freezepop’s “Less Talk More Rokk” that came later. The military march beat (representing life’s sameness?) contrasts the electronic synth sounds. This version is more hardcore rock, but it still has those hints of the futuristic. Byzantine never goes full screamo, yet their sound really evokes the sense of life’s plodding toughness. — Sara Stoudt

35. Melvins – Candy-O

Revolver magazine describes Ozma, the Melvins’ album that includes this cover, as being “lumbering, ponderous and completely frightening.” Does that carry into this track, in its original one of the least Carsy Cars songs, in part down to relative simplicity of the structure and arrangement, and Benjamin Orr’s drawling semi-vocal? Well, the Melvins get rid of all that, applying buzzsaw guitar in layer after layer, and actually singing the song. Sure, the voice ain’t sweet but it is actually better than Orr’s attempt. So it is an odd outcome, a somewhat slapdash romp through that effortlessly spits on the original, being punkier, more metallic and grungier by a sweat-stained mile. Without breaking a sweat, if you will. — Seuras Og

34. Christian Lipski and The Windows – You’re All I’ve Got Tonight

Christian Lipski’s cover of the pulsating-angsty-whatever anthem “You’re All I’ve Got Tonight” sounds like a perverse Schoolhouse Rock song, as if the beloved ’70s interstitial series decided to branch out from its themes of multiplication, grammar, and history and delve into the mystery of human relations. His gentle spoken-word delivery is strikingly similar to that of Bob Dorough, the legendary singer-composer behind dozens of Schoolhouse classics (sing it with me: “Three Is A Magic Number”). Lipski has somehow made a song about two desperate characters openly using each other drip with longing, which is astounding and hilarious in the best possible way. — Hope Silverman

33. The New York Room – Since You’re Gone

“Since You’re Gone” showcases a broken heart in a power ballad setting – but, as it’s Ric Ocasek’s broken heart, things are just those few degrees off, only noticeable if you look closely. Who else could mourn that “since you’re gone, the moonlight ain’t so great”? Well, in this case, the New York Room could. They convey the sense of loss in a far different way, with sad vocals and synths in ripples rather than waves. Result: a power ballad becomes a ballad with power. — Patrick Robbins

32. The Debutante Hour – Just What I Needed

Like The Puppini Singers doing “Panic” in our recent Smiths post, The Debutante Hour bring Roaring Twenties flappers harmonies to modern songs. Their 2011 EP Follow Me is full of gems, making everything from TLC’s “No Scrubs” to The Flaming Lips’ “Do You Realize” sound like the soundtrack to Prohibition. The lively “Just What I Needed” bops along, driven by accordion and brushed drums. It’s like if The Cars band name referred to Model T’s. — Ray Padgett

31. The Punch Brothers – Just What I Needed

Virtuosic musicianship aside, the best thing about this cover is the fun, spontaneous vibe it emits from its every pore. Chris Thile’s vocals are wonderfully candied and cool, but I gotta give extra stars to violinist Gabe Witcher and banjoist Noam Pikelny, who rock so hard they are somehow able to make an unplugged rag-tag AV Club studio recording sound like a stadium anthem. — Hope Silverman


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  3 Responses to “The 40 Best Cars Covers Ever”

Comments (3)
  1. Nothing about the Stokes and Jarvis Cocker? Relly?

  2. This is awesome – one of the best. A heads-up. I think the video for No. 32. The Debutante Hour – Just What I Needed is actually a cover by Graham Verchere.

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