September 23, 2011


My contribution to the latest mix comes from a tribute album of Is This It covers. There are a number of different ways to cover a song, and the collection displays a variety.

Covering the title track, Peter Bjorn & John write, "We didn’t want to do anything crazy or weird like turning the song into a acid jazz P-funk power ballad. We just wanted to play it as good as we could." Indeed it's the least radical cover on the album, but it remains interesting since it still sounds like Peter Bjorn & John. And unlike some of the others, they don't fuck up what was great about the song in the first place.

Owen Pallett took his inspiration from a Regina Spektor comment and a message board user "named Nabisco" who noted elements of classical composition in the Strokes. Pallett says he "re-imagined the Strokes as a piano quintet, and had us all playing hard, fast and mechanical." While quite different than the original, his cover of "Hard to Explain" sounds great.

The members of Real Estate were apparently a Strokes cover band in high school. They played at Cassie Ramone's sweet 16 party. Covering "Barely Legal," Real Estate deliberately set out "to not make it sound like the original." Their cover is nice but a little boring--but then I find Real Estate nice but a little boring, so.

Then there's Heems, aka Himanshu Suri of Das Racist. I'll let you listen to that one yourself. Everybody hates it. I like it.


I shared the Morning Benders' take on "Last Night." They could have just gotten out of the way of a great, catchy, universally recognizable track, as did Peter Bjorn & John. Or they could have totally revamped it. Instead they found a beautiful middle ground, tapping into the original successfully while changing it enough that you're interested in second, third, fourth listens. I thought Chris Chu's explanation of his process was pretty fantastic, so I'll let him have the last word:
Back when Is This It was released everyone was going crazy over how much The Strokes sounded like VU and Television and Iggy Pop. But to me, there first single “Last Nite” always felt like a Beatles song. The way the rhythmic elements always stay out of the way of the vocal, that one note guitar line a la George Harrison, even Julian’s vocal has that combo of snotty grit and melody that reminds of Lennon. But beyond all that, the reason it really feels like a Beatles song is the structure. It’s classic early-Beatles Lennon, and an approach to pop structure that still hasn’t really been tapped into. There’s no clear verse or chorus, just one main hook and melody. The only other section is a short bridge, that really just acts as a kind of propeller for the main melody, giving it the momentum it needs to come back over and over and over again. That’s good pop! And of course the middle eight is replaced by a guitar solo because, well, they’re the Strokes. For our cover we turned that structure on its head. The sections still occur in the same order, but we have re-imagined them. The main “Last Nite” melody/lyric becomes a proper verse, and the section that used to be a short bridge becomes the proper chorus/hook. At the end everything intersects with each other and we have a melodic party. Pretty fun, right?
[Download the cover album for free and read the rest of the artist explanations here.]



Blogger Tony said...

Here's the PBJ cover:

September 24, 2011 at 10:16 AM 
Blogger Chase said...

Unrelated note: I just saw Peter Bjorn and John tonight, and they were tremendous.

September 25, 2011 at 3:57 AM 

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