There are numerous versions of Prince‘s iconic “When Doves Cry”; it’s not a song that’s exactly begging for new renditions. And yet alternative legends Local H have recorded not one but two new versions of the song, a rock version and an acoustic version.
Alt-rock veterans Local H are pretty far removed from yacht rock, but on their upcoming covers album Local H’s Awesome Quarantine Mix-Tape #3, they tackle one of the early staples of the genre: Looking Glass’s 1972 hit “Brandy (You’re a Fine Girl).” As anyone who remembers Local H’s grunge-era hits could probably guess, it doesn’t sound much like the original.
Singer-guitarist Scott Lucas and drummer Ryan Harding dial the distortion up to 11, turning it almost into a loud-quiet-loud Pixies song. No surprise there; Lucas told us last year that his favorite cover ever was by the Pixies. They do keep a bit of the original yachty flavor, though, courtesy of the backing vocals. This song and the others on the album were expanded from Scott’s quarantined solo sessions (we posted a couple of them here and here).
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.
It’s a strange circumstance: What has been awful for humanity at large has been pretty good for the world of cover songs. Even we would say that’s a terrible trade-off!
Nevertheless, we’ve been grateful that so many musicians have taken to Facebook, Instagram, etc to share their music and, in many cases, cover favorite songs that are helping get them through. So, for the fourth time and certainly not the last, we’re rounding up some of the best we’ve seen recently and encouraging you to add your own below.
One note: There are some obvious names you won’t see here. John Prine. Bill Withers. Adam Schlesinger. Kenny Rogers. So many wonderful covers are emerging to pay tribute to artists no longer with them that we’ll be rounding them up separately. We did the first set for Prine here.
In Pick Five, great artists pick five cover songs that matter to them.
Tomorrow, veteran rock band Local H releases its ninth album, the Steve Albini-produced LIFERS. It is a weird time to be releasing an album. Many major artists have postponed releases, with no way to properly promote them. One of the best live rock bands out there, Local H can’t play any shows to support it. So tonight they’re doing a live streaming show on their Facebook page tonight. Guarantee it will rock a little harder than the acoustic guitar’d singer-songwriters dominating the quarantine streams.
LIFERS doesn’t include any covers, but frontman Scott Lucas has been covering a new song every day on that same Facebook page. He has a different cocktail for each one, and even dresses up for some of the performances, from yacht-rock leisure to the Tiger King. It’s a long way from the self-serious stereotype of the ’90s grunge band. But even when Local H was a ’90s grunge band, they always had a sense of humor (see “Eddie Vedder,” “All the Kids Are Right”). And they’ve outlasted most of their peers, continuing to record killer albums to an extremely passionate fanbase. LIFERS is the perfect album title.
So we decided to ask Scott about his own favorite covers, which he ranked from number five to number one. Here’s what he said: