Jul 222022

Go back to the beginning

30. Bobby Vee – We’re Going to Be Friends

Time has not necessarily been all that kind to the likes of Bobby Vee. He was responsible, with others, for carrying much the burden of US chart music following the demise of the early rock’n’rollers. His crew was left holding the baton until washed away by Beatlemania, dismissed as drab and saccharine by those missing the former and waiting for the latter. Unfair, I think, as “Rubber Ball,” probably his biggest and best known, invariably cheers my mood. Fast forward, and looking for a buck, Cleopatra records sought to profit from the success of the White Stripes, drawing together a woebegone raggle-taggle of ageing has-beens and former stars. OK, and Wanda Jackson and Gary U.S. Bonds, together with a few retro modern acts who could evoke that era, Los Straitjackets and Slim Cessna’s Auto Club. This was Rockin’ Legends Pay Tribute to Jack White, in 2013, and I dare say most folk didn’t realize Bobby Vee was still alive. AllMusic slagged his performance, citing him for sleepwalking through it. I think that unfair and below the belt. In fact, it is a sturdy performance, his voice aged and oaked sufficiently to give a well-worn gravitas to the song, one that compares with late-period Johnny Cash. I much prefer it to the original, which is all the things Vee used to get called forty years before. – Seuras Og

29. Aluminium – Astro

The band and album called Aluminium deliver orchestral reworkings of White Stripes songs. But this is not the anonymous studio musicians of a Vitamin String Quartet-type project. Aluminium was Richard Russell, the owner of uber-cool British record label XL Recordings, alongside acclaimed composer Joby Talbot. They dig deep on song selection too, eschewing most of the obvious hits in favor of tunes like Cold Mountain soundtrack cut “Never Far Away” and “Blue Orchid” single B-side “Who’s a Big Baby?” As with many orchestral projects like this, it’s hard to pick out just one song in isolation, but the lithe version of early Stripes song “Astro” is particularly fun. – Ray Padgett

28. The Twang – Seven Nation Army

No, not that Twang. Rather than the anodyne landfill-indie rockers from Birmingham, UK, this is the German band who specialize in “rodeo-ing” hits from other genres. Also called, I gather, country-fidging, they have built an admirable career thereupon, with about 14 full-length releases since their formation in 1997. Not just famous in Deutschland, they have toured the US and played at Austin’s SXSW festival, but the fact their website lists Hayseed Dixie as merely another band in this corral suggests no shortage of chutzpah. Of course, we here just recently got this blast of them. “Seven Nation Army” has barely a country bone in its original version, so it is good to hear it under that light, with banjo and baritone voices. Which, actually, gets the song to reveal the strength of White’s songwriting, sometimes willfully concealed by default of the deliberately slim arrangements. – Seuras Og

27. Electric Chinas – I Think I Smell a Rat

The White Stripes loved playing “I Think I Smell a Rat.” It was the band’s third-most-played original song ever. More than “Seven Nation Army,” even. Or, if that’s not a fair comparison since that came an album later, they also played “I Think I Smell a Rat” more than the same album’s hit “Fell in Love with a Girl.” They would work its riff into other songs, too; I saw it combined with “Screwdriver” once and “Take A Whiff On Me” another time. The Russian group Electric Chinas touches on a variety of metal genres in their version, adding some doom to the low end and glammier screams to the high. – Ray Padgett

26. Bright Eyes ft. First Aid Kit – We’re Going to Be Friends

Cool for School: A Benefit for the Lunchbox Fund was a 2011 charity compilation album made up of indie covers of school-related songs. School being school, it has its share of downers like “The Headmaster Ritual” and “Another Brick in the Wall Part 2.” But the leadoff track is “We’re Going To Be Friends” as performed by Bright Eyes and First Aid Kit, and it sounds just as sweet and innocent in their hands as it did in the White Stripes’. Maybe even more so, with its rudimentary backing track and sweet mix of boy and girl vocals. – Patrick Robbins

25. Los Straitjackets – Icky Thump

Nashville’s Los Straitjackets tease out a sidewinding surf-rock novelty from “Icky Thump,” the title track of The White Stripes’ final 2007 studio record. Though the original is explosive – sludgy keyboards, manic guitars – Los Straitjackets cut away nearly all of these trimmings, turning it into a nimble instrumental. Most impressive is the way that the group whittle down White’s fire-and-brimstone vocal into a single needling lead line, revolving around just a pair of biting notes, doubled in unison on guitar and bass. The track feels somehow both breezy and foreboding, a weird, warped beach party soundtrack. – Ben Easton

24. Ellakova – In the Cold Cold Night

The original’s slinky opening, delivered by Meg White on one of her few lead vocal appearances with a little “you give me fever” energy, changes into an electro-dance-pop bop. It’s a restrained electro beat, though, not crossing the line into too much fist-bumping. In either genre, the “come hither” attitude still delivers, alluring, but not too overt. – Sara Stoudt

23. Molly Zenobia – Fell in Love with a Girl/The Denial Twist

As noted a few entries back, the Whites Stripes loved blending songs together on the spur of the moment in concert. That was the beauty of Meg’s minimal drumming; Jack could just switch songs at whim and she could follow along. So kudos to jazz singer Molly Zenobia for bringing that mashup energy to her contribution to the Indie Translations of The White Stripes tribute album. – Ray Padgett

22. Ben l’Oncle Soul – Seven Nation Army

You may have noticed by now that “Seven Nation Army” sounds good no matter what style it’s played in. Here we have it in French retro-soul, courtesy of Ben L’Oncle Soul. The guitars are gone, but far from the song’s detriment. It’s not a jagged headbanger anymore, but it makes for an awfully nice smooth rump shaker. – Patrick Robbins

21. Laurie Wright – Ball & Biscuit

Coming from a cover album called Bedroom Busking, you might not expect this wailing guitar, but for lovers of a good shred, this does not disappoint. It still has the swagger of the original in both guitar and vocal delivery without feeling over the top. Taking the jam-band song length even more to the extreme than the original, you have almost ten minutes of this energy to enjoy. Plus there is a little blues harmonica in there. – Sara Stoudt


Cover Me is now on Patreon! If you love cover songs, we hope you will consider supporting us there with a small monthly subscription. There are a bunch of exclusive perks only for patrons: playlists, newsletters, downloads, discussions, polls - hell, tell us what song you would like to hear covered and we will make it happen. Learn more at Patreon.

 Leave a Reply

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>