Jan 192024
linda smith salad days

The Welsh proto indie pop band Young Marble Giants, who existed for about 3 years in the late ’70s/early ’80s, are known for their minimalist recordings, featuring lead singer Allison Statton’s voice backed by only a (very active) bass guitar, either an electric guitar or an organ, and a drum machine. This is not a band that has been covered much, despite their influence on some ’90s acts. The SecondHandSongs covers database lists a total of 18 covers for their catalogue. Now, their catalogue is something like 25 songs, but it’s still not a lot of covers for a band that was once revealed to be one of Kurt Cobain’s favorites.

Linda Smith is a singer-songwriter from Baltimore who has been self-releasing records and tapes since 1987. She recorded her cover of “Salad Days” for a planned tribute album to Young Marble Giants that was scrapped when the label went under. “Salad Days” is one of the 15 original tracks from their one and only LP, Colossal Youth. It’s one of the two tracks Statton co-wrote for the album, as the majority were written by guitarist/organist Stuart Moxham (the co-writer of “Salad Days”). The song is notable for having only a few lines of lyrics.

Nearly every cover of a Young Marble Giants song is going to be more elaborate than the original, and that’s no different with Smith’s version of “Salad Days.” The track begins with looped percussion and a laugh followed by a bass and an acoustic guitar. Soon drums and an electric guitar join in, and an organ which recalls the sound of the organ the band initially used. It’s like an orchestra in comparison to the original.

As the looped laugh fades, Smith delivers a faithful vocal, albeit with backing vocals. Crowd noise is added as the instruments play through the melody. That noise drops out of the mix as Smith once again delivers the few lines of lyrics.

It’s a faithful cover in terms of melody (and, especially, that organ) but is aesthetically altogether different given how dense the mix is. It’s an interesting approach, fleshing out an extremely basic song but otherwise not really deviating from it very much. It’s also really welcome to hear someone covering a band that has mostly been ignored as a source for material, if the internet has it right. All Young Marble Giants songs are catchy, it’s nice to see someone reminding us of that.

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