Anyone who was paying attention to cover songs a decade ago will remember The A.V. Club’s “Undercover” series. In the vein of the BBC Live Lounge and Triple J Like a Version, the entertainment web site would bring bands into their Chicago offices to cover a song. The concept, though, was the site started with a masters list of songs and the band had to pick one. The later they came in, the fewer song choices remained. It went on for years and the covers were ubiquitous (we must have posted a million of ’em). Practically every indie band of the era stopped by (many several times), and they often delivered something great.
Neil Young recently cancelled his Pearl Jam Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction speech due to illness (he’s reportedly fine now). While he takes a break though, new Neil covers keep rolling in. Two particularly great ones have surfaced in the last month, tacking a pair of Young’s loudest and most fiery songs.
First up, composer Teho Teardo and singer Blixa Bargeld (of Einstürzende Neubauten/Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds fame) cover “Hey Hey, My My” on their new EP together Fall. A weird and wonderful production, it brings together bass clarinet, musical saw, and a six-piece string section under Bargeld’s mesmerizing line readings. It’s one of the best Neil covers we’ve heard in recent years, surprising and unexpected.
“Don’t Dream It’s Over,” first reentered the covers stratosphere with Miley Cyrus and Ariana Grande’s adorable rendition for the Happy Hippie Foundation earlier this year. Wye Oak’s Jenn Wasner (under her solo moniker Flock of Dimes) and Sylvan Esso also covered the Crowded House jam for AV Club’s Undercover series, and as much as I loved Miley and Ariana’s take, this one may have it beat.
The A.V. Club’s Undercover series has been producing great covers for many years now with the same premise: a list of songs chosen by the staff and fans, slowly whittled down by the bands coming in to cover them. It has resulted in incredible combinations (GWAR’s version of “Carry on My Wayward Son” being the most startling) and plenty of entertainment. One of the most creative renditions of a tough cover, Chumbawamba’s “Tubthumping,” came from the stalwart experimental rockers They Might Be Giants. The Johns (singers Linnell and Flansburgh) returned to the A.V. Club recently to cover Destiny’s Child‘s “Bills, Bills, Bills.”
For many, Courtney Barnett seems to be the heir apparent to Kim Deal as the coolest woman in rock. It’s fair to say the ‘intelligent slacker’ look and sound of Kim and the scene she came from has certainly informed Barnett as a writer and a performer.