Wednesday, June 22, 2011

11 Best Covers: Pt. 3

I don't know why I've been using the heading tags 11-8, 7-4, etc., since I mentioned that these aren't in any order. So consider this part 3.

The Pogues - "The Band Played Waltzing Matilda"

Only seven of the 13 tracks on Rum Sodomy & The Lash are original--most of the others are traditionals. The album closer, however, finds Shane McGowan setting down his Guinness glass and assuming the role of crippled Australian veteran. "Matilda" was written in 1971 by Aussie folk singer Eric Bogle (actually a Scottish immigrant). The song details one soldier's journey to and from the battle of Gallipoli, the grizzly World War I conflict that yielded almost 400,000 causalities. Bogle's original version tells the story with bittersweet honesty, but when Shane McGowan sings it, he is that soldier. And not only does he plausibly resemble the narrator due to his timbre and accent, he wrings the pity out of those piercing lyrics. Hard not to be overcome by empathy at the line, "Never knew there were worse things than dying."

The White Stripes - "Conquest"

The White Stripes are supposedly kaput. I don't read it as a permanent situation, but if it is, they went out with a bang with Icky Thump. One of the standouts from IT is its only non-original, "Conquest". Originally performed by Patti Page way back in the 50s, it's a spicy tale of an opportunistic femme fatale becoming "the huntress". The original's up-beat theatrics were tailor made for a Stripes-style punch-up. White supercharges the song with his vocal wails, churning guitar and horn interplay. As is his gift, Jack White manages to simultaneously occupy the role of purist and innovator.

Ryan Adams - "Wonderwall"

Detractors of Adams' 2004 double LP Love Is Hell claim that the album is merely a string of homages. Ryan writes a Coldplay song, Ryan writes a Radiohead song, Ryan writes a Prince song, etc. Say what you will--I happen to think it might be the best of his solo work--but Ryan Adams gained the most attention for the one song that was actually a cover. An unabashed Oasis fan, Ryan took the 90s megahit and turned it on its ear. Ryan's version is sparse, acoustic, and ghostly. Moonlight glints off the edges of the "You're my wonderwall" refrain. It's a breathtaking composition, one that was curiously nominated for a Grammy.


Conclusion to come. 

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