Mar 092023

“‘Cello Song” is one of the more distinct cuts on Nick Drake‘s debut album Five Leaves Left. Shockingly, it features a prominent cello part, in addition to congas, augmenting Drake’s guitar and voice. For the rest of the album, Drake is accompanied usually by a string section or a bass instead. It’s one of his more frequently covered songs, perhaps because of its distinctness within his catalogue or perhaps because it’s just very pretty.

Irish rock band Fontaines D.C., who we last saw on Cover Me with a version of U2’s “One,” have decided to mostly omit the cello from their version of “‘Cello Song.” That’s hardly a surprise given their post-punk-influenced sound, but it still makes the title a little funny. (Perhaps Nick Drake should have properly named his song.) They’ve recorded their version as part of the upcoming tribute to Drake, The Endless Coloured Days.

There is some feedback or other ambient noise at the very beginning, before the drums kick in, that vaguely resembles a cello, but it’s there only for a moment. And then the drums kick in and you know this is not your typical Nick Drake cover. The (electric) guitars are angular and vaguely twangy. And the vibe is much more early ’80s than late ’60s.

But then Grian Chatten starts humming the refrain melody, as Drake does in the original, and things calm down considerably. When Chatten starts singing the actual lyrics, around the 1:40 minute, the song actually starts to resemble the original a little bit, with an acoustic guitar roughly approximating Drake’s own guitar part. The drums kick back in for the hummed refrain but otherwise, the feel is more of a rocked up, vaguely hazy version of the original, rather than a complete rethinking. A cello, or perhaps a viola, does eventually come in at the very end.

So the intro actually is a bit of a misdirection, setting us up for a radical revision but then revealing a reasonably faithful version of the song, albeit with more drums and way more electric guitar. Check it out below:

Mar 312022
best cover songs of march 2022
Avhath – Cool / Levitating / Don’t Start Now (Dua Lipa covers)

What’s better than one Indonesian black-metal Dua Lipa cover? Three Indonesian black-metal Dua Lipa covers! Not that you’d ever know these were Dua Lipa songs unless you were listening really closely to the lyrics (and could manage to make them out).

The Band of Heathens – El Paso City (Marty Robbins cover)

During lockdown, Band of Heathens hosted a regular livestream variety show called Good Time Supper Club. One segment, “Remote Transmissions,” featured them covering a new song every episode – over 50 in all. They’re collecting some of the best on a forthcoming album of the same name: Remote Transmissions. “Making records is always about cataloging any point in time. We wanted to celebrate the unique collaborative aspect of the show,” guitarist Ed Jurdi told American Songwriter. “What better way to document the last year than with these songs?” First up is this take on a Marty Robbins country classic. Continue reading »

Sep 282021

i'll be your mirror tributeI love the old chestnut that everybody who ever saw the Velvet Underground started a band. Certainly, were that the case, their shows must have been jampacked with underage punters, with children, even, since most of those in bands and who most keenly rate them and cite their influence would have been far too young. Many would have been in the wrong country, likewise. But, hey, it’s a great tale and, who knows, had they all actually been there, the band may have been a lot bigger and more successful in their lifetime.

For, undoubtedly, their imprint on rock music has been hugely out of proportion to their actual footprint. I forget, maybe it was all those who bought their first album started a band, but again, the numbers don’t really stack up until you collate the cumulative sales, decade on decade after the initial release. (Ed: It was, in fact, no less than Brian Eno who made this assertion, in 1982.) Hampered by a brace of lawsuits, relating to the copyright of some of the cover photos, the album limped out in 1967, taking some time to ratchet up many sales at all, trashed by critics and ignored by the record label publicity machine. Lyrics about sado-masochism, IV drugs and prostitution were seen as anathema to the mores of the day, and the linkage to Andy Warhol, then enfant terrible of the American art-house film movement, will have hardly have warmed them to any mainstream audience. But maybe that was the point. Be that as it may, in the half century plus since, the star of this still sometimes difficult record has shone ever more brightly. That first album was, to give it its full title, The Velvet Underground and Nico, with the iconic banana logo, and it is this record that is here recreated and revisioned, revalidated and recalibrated. Continue reading »