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100 best covers: #55 Smashing Pumpkins “Never let me down again”

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I’d consider myself a pretty big fan of Depeche Mode, especially of their period spanning the late 1980s to the late 1990s. In fact, last year on these very pages, I did a series of three posts on the iconic synth pop band, each one focusing on my top five tunes of their three very distinct eras: the prolific 1980s, the popular 1990s, and everything that followed, in a more experimental but still very relevant vein.

Near the end of that middle and very popular period in the 90s, a tribute album was put together by the artists and management team behind the industrial rock group, God Lives Underwater. Titled “For the masses”, it featured reimaginings by said band, but also by The Cure, Veruca Salt, Meat Beat Manifesto, and yes, Smashing Pumpkins. I bought the compilation on compact disc, of course, but was mostly disappointed with it and only ever listened to it a few times. And often those few times that it found itself in my player were because I had a hankering to listen to one of the disc’s meagre bright spots, that is, the track that we are focusing on today.

Smashing Pumpkins originally included their cover of “Never let me down again” as a B-side to the single, “Rocket”, released in 1994, just as they were breaking into the mainstream. The cover’s later inclusion on this compilation was the impetus for my buying the CD, after hearing it quite a bit on alternative radio. It is one of the few examples here that the covering artist really remakes the subject matter into their own thing. Where the original was robotic, dark, cold, and practically unemotional, Billy Corgan and gang inject a bit of warmth and yes, some increased sensuality to the proceedings. They take the convertible out for a ride in sunshine, still wearing sunglasses and cool, of course, the guitars are jangling and the drumming peppy, and Corgan is all snarls and whispery and just this side of screaming it out.

Yeah, it’s a great cover. Can I really say it’s better than Mode’s original synth pop evocation of drug euphoria? Nope.Do I think it’s still worth playing over and over? Oh yes.

Cover:

The original:

For the rest of the 100 best covers list, click here.

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100 best covers: #56 Oasis “Cum on feel the noize”

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So here’s a great Friday tune. A rip-roaring number that, if you aren’t already, will get you all revved up to go out on the town, now that we can somewhat go out on the town again. A tune to blast out at eleven and… well… before I get too ahead of myself, let’s get back to some context.

During the mid-1990s, the Manchester quintet known as Oasis had a pretty terrific run of new music, one that I would have to say could rival any band in history, in terms of being prolific and the quality of their rock and roll. And I’m not just talking those brilliant first two albums. They also released a string of hit-making singles in this same period that showcased some pretty amazing b-sides*.

The fourth such single to be released from their sophomore record, “(What’s the story) morning glory?”, was the Noel-sung ballad, “Don’t look back in anger”. And of the three additional b-sides included on the CD single I managed to find as an import, each were great, but I actually recognized the fourth track as a song from my youth. Little did I know that even the commercially successful version from 1983, the one I remember singing to myself while walking to school in grade five, recklessly done by LA metal group, Quiet Riot, was also a cover.

Indeed, I was amused to learn that the original was actually done way back in 1973** by glam hard rockers, Slade. I, of course, knew of this group only by their 1983 hit, “Run runaway”, and though I liked that one well enough during my music video youth, I never felt the urge to check out their version of “Cum on feel the noize” until I sat down to write this post.

I always really liked this Oasis cover for the way it was just fun and raw, rock and roll, and captured that lightning-in-a-bottle live energy of theirs. But really, all of these versions of “Cum on feel the noize”, by such very different musical groups, were all approached from the same direction. All of these are loud and brash and a hell of a good time.

Personally, I’m still going with the Oasis one here over the others: I just don’t see myself cranking up the other two all that often. But… it’s Friday. Crank whichever one floats your boat and just giv’er!

Cover:

The original:

*Some of these were later collected on the group’s 1998 compilation, “The masterplan”.

**I would’ve been way too young to possibly know this one at the time, having been born a few months after its release.

For the rest of the 100 best covers list, click here.

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100 best covers: #57 Luna with Laetitia Sadier “Bonnie & Clyde”

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The second album I ever listened to by New York-based dream pop band, Luna was their third album, 1995’s “Penthouse”. I brought home the CD with me one day a few years after its release and put it right in my player, where it stayed for a few weeks. There was a hidden bonus track on the CD, a French-language number that told the story of legendary criminal lovers, Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow, and it quickly became a favourite of mine on the album, even though my knowledge of French was limited at the time. And of course, back then, I had no idea it was a cover.

The original version of  “Bonnie and Clyde” was recorded by legendary musician/artist Serge Gainsbourg with French film actress Brigitte Bardot in 1968. Theirs was much more sped up than the version I first heard but with just as dreamy a feel, and just as timeless. It definitely doesn’t sound like something I imagine coming out the sixties. Relentless guitars in a wind tunnel on one channel and a weird vocal effect that sounds like a hiccup repeating on the other. I don’t know much about Gainsbourg’s other work but this duet with actress Brigitte Bardot is practically spoken word, which is apt given that the words were based heavily on an English language poem written by Bonnie Parker herself.

And yeah, this is just one of the many excellent covers that Luna has done over the years. This group seems to love doing them and remaking them into something that completely fits within their oeuvre so that it sounds all their own. In fact, Luna has done so many of them that when they released their “best of” compilation in 2006, the deluxe release included a bonus disc called “Lunafied” that gathered up all of their best covers from over the years and of course, this one was included.

Luna’s version of “Bonnie and Clyde” included the work of Stereolab’s Laetitia Sadier, performing the vocal parts originated by Bardot. The bonus track that I knew and loved was later re-released as a single and renamed as the Clyde Barrow version and a slower version was also made available as the Bonnie Parker version*. Both of these are just incredible explosions of surreal dream worlds, full of echoes and images and imaginings in French. And now that I actually understand the language somewhat, I enjoy the song even more.

Which do I prefer? Sorry, Serge, I might just have to go with the cover here.

Cover:

The original:

*Both of these appeared on the aforementioned “Lunafied” compilation, which when released by Runout Groove Records on vinyl a few years ago, I just had to purchase for my collection.

For the rest of the 100 best covers list, click here.