Not all new music is really new, as many artists cover songs. Sometimes these are songs by their favorite artists, eg as a tribute to such a musical hero for a special reason, or they simply feel that a song deserves to be dusted and polished to reacquaint fans with great songs from the past. Other times, bands cover songs as a parody. Regardless of intent, some of those cover versions are so good or so much fun, we’d like to put a spotlight on them. Chosen from a wide range, here are – in random order – ten of our favorite covers from last month – links to the pages where you can add them to your wantlist included.
We’ve already posted reviews of G.T.R.R.C.‘s compilation and Kepi Ghoulie & Vic Ruggiero‘s cover-rich album this month, I had to disregard Squid‘s Cover Versions EP because it is exclusive to Rough Trade shops, and I found out that I had overlooked a new, pretty good cover album by Deep Purple (Turning To Crime) last month, but these are ten other releases worth your attention.
Kiss Me Deadly || Cover: Chuck Prophet featuring Make Out Quartet || Original: Lita Ford
The most successful cover songs are often genre-transcending, with the covering artist differing considerably from the covered artist. That’s definitely the case here, where Chuck Prophet transforms Lita Ford’s 80s hard rock hit into a folk ballad with harmony vocals, acoustic guitar, violin and bells (not only the music but also the lyrics are more well-behaved now). It’s the closing song of four-track EP The Land That Time Forgot Revisited, out digitally through Yep Roc Records – Prophet re-recorded three songs of his most recent album, and this cover, live with a string quartet, on a linoleum floor on a rainy Tuesday afternoon in an empty barroom in San Francisco’s Mission District.
Holiday || Cover: Half Past Two || Original: Vampire Weekend
We could have easily compiled a list of only Christmas covers this month (one example: Kill Rock Stars’ Winter Holiday Album Volume 2), but we didn’t. However, this nod from Half Past Two is too much fun to ignore. The Southern California ska/rock/reggae/pop-punk band released their Holidays EP via Slushtone/Jump Up Records, consisting of four tracks titled Holiday, from Madonna, Green Day, Vampire Weekend and Weezer. Their self-titled full-length album is also out now.
Vacation || Cover: Sullen Eyes || Original: Go-Go’s
Another Holidays song without being it a Christmas carol: American three-piece Sullen Eyes – Julia (vocals), Ryan (guitar, bass), and Colby (drums) – heighten the festive spirit. Their self-titled debut EP, which came out last February and has a cover of There She Goes (The La’s), is fun too.
Tiger Feet || Cover: Lord Rochester || Original: Mud
Folc Records released a very nice 7″ vinyl single by this Scottish rock ‘n’ roll combo, with an entertaining cover of Driving In My Car (Madness) on the A side, but the Mud cover on the B side brings an even bigger smile on my face. This recording was conceived earlier this year under the name Big Russ & Lightnin’ Holling, but now drums and vocals have been added.
Popular || Cover: Pom Pom Squad || Original: Nada Surf
Some playful tweets that Brooklyn four-piece Pom Pom Squad posted about their admiration for Nada Surf evolved into an actual tour between both artists over the past fall, and now this collaboration: Nada Surf singer/guitarist Matthew Caws is an active contributor to this cool cover version of his brilliant rock ode to adolescent disillusionment (1996), out via City Slang Records. They also recreated the music video, even filmed it at the same location of the original. Pom Pom Squad released their debut album Death Of A Cheerleader this year.
Opinion || Cover: TH Da Freak || Original: Nirvana
Flippin’ Freaks and Nothing Is Mine Records co-released Influencesticide: A French Tribute To Nirvana, a (digital) album featuring 28 covers by 28 different artists/bands from France. To be honest, I’m only familiar with the work of TH Da Freak, which is why I chose his version of an unknown solo acoustic track by Kurt Cobain (available on the boxset With The Lights Out). However, there are more successful contributions.
Este Es El Mundo De Hoy || Cover: Las Lenguas Muertas || Original: The Jam
On the five-track digital EP Tributo Argentino a The Jam (out via OIQP Discos), Los Atomizantes, Las Lenguas Muertas, Thelefon, and Los Mundys convincingly cover songs by The Jam. Standout track is this Spanish version of Paul Weller’s The Modern World.
Rock and Roll || Cover: Acoustic Syndicate || Original: The Velvet Underground
The American bluegrass band that has been a popular live act for over 25 years, add their own spin to one of the best tracks ever made, while keeping in the same key as the 1970 recording.
No Such Thing || Cover: Monkey Business || Original: The Legendary Shack Shakers
After 30 years of absence, Mark Swindlehurst, Graham Sykes, and Adrian Trelore are back at the front. Last month they released their cover album Garageland, which they now follow with a (digital) EP with four other covers.
Hurt || Cover: Jacqie Rivera || Original: Nine Inch Nails
Of course, Johnny Cash’s version will probably never be topped, but this one by late legendary Regional Mexican artist Jenni Rivera’s daughter is also worth checking out. Coinciding with the nine year anniversary of her iconic mother’s passing on December 9th, Jacqie’s cover takes on a moving sentiment and serves as a memorable tribute to her late mother. Out digitally through Soundflower Publishing and My Grito Industries.
BONUS: COVER OF THE YEAR
Talking Reality Television Blues || Cover: Tom Jones || Original: Todd Snider
At the beginning of 2021, the then 80-year-old Tom Jones surprised with this impressive single and video, in which he reworked an acoustic country song into a Radiohead-esque anthem. It’s the powerful, relevant, and hypnotic highlight of his cover album Surrounded By Time (EMI), which would follow later.