Apr 062010

The first post of the month features covers of every track on a famous album. Got an idea for a future pick? Leave a note in the comments!

Peter Gabriel has never gotten much love from the indie world, but thanks to a new covers album he’s finally getting the Pitchfork articles he deserves. Scratch My Back presents a clever concept: he covers the likes of Radiohead and Arcade Fire with the understanding that they’ll return the favor. So far Bon Iver, the Magnetic Fields and Paul Simon have obliged. While we wait for more to surface, here’s a look at Gabriel’s finest hour: So.

Queensrÿche – Red Rain

This apocalyptic torrent holds up surprisingly well given a louder treatment. The best cover of this is by R.E.M. and Natalie Merchant, but Gabriel guests there so it doesn’t really count. [Buy]

Maiysha – Sledgehammer

At the Roots weekly late-night NYC jam session over the summer, Maiysha performed this one with the band. Sadly there’s no recording of that barn-stormer, but her album recording keeps the sultry teases. [Buy]

Willie Nelson & Sinead O’Connor – Don’t Give Up

Covers of this one (of which there are many) tend to be sickeningly emotional. Willie’s sing-speak gives the proceedings a more honest touch, and Sinead’s broken warble completes the picture. [Buy]

Michael Aaron – That Voice Again

Apparently the “voice” is meant to represent judgment. I prefer to think of it as paranoia. [Buy]

Tim Reynolds – In Your Eyes

This song also tends towards the über-emotional cover. While those tend to work better here, you can’t replicate Youssou N’Dour. Dave Matthews Band guitar virtuoso Reynolds tears it up with a funky acoustic instrumental. [Buy]

Fever Ray – Mercy Street

Fever Ray, the current project of The Knife singer Karin Dreijer Andersson, performed this one live a few times near the end of last year. It’s a paranoid electro-goth rush, like just about everything else she does (including her fantastic Nick Cave cover). [Buy]

Ari Hest – Big Time

Singer-songwriter Hest clearly loves this album, regularly performing covers of this, “In Your Eyes,” and “Mercy Street.” Check those out at archive.org. [Buy]

Justin Cottrell – We Do What We’re Told (Milgram’s 37)

Anyone who’s ever taken a psych class knows Milgram’s experiments. In a nutshell, Yale scientist Stanley Milgram had volunteers quiz a “student,” giving the student a shock of ever-increasing power when he got an answer wrong. The goal was to see how long people would continue to give the shocks as the student (in reality a partner of the experimenter) screamed in pain. Some volunteers reached a point where they refused to administer another shock. Most didn’t. In one variation 37 out of 40 subjects never stopped. Chilling stuff. Read more. [Buy]

Laurie Anderson – This Is the Picture (Excellent Birds)

Anderson co-wrote this with Gabriel and actually released her version first. Gabriel didn’t release his version on the first pressing of So, perhaps content to have appeared on Anderson’s recording. [Buy]