Cover tunes are essential. New bands tend to start out playing several covers during their early shows to appeal to their audience, and it’s an awesome way to pay homage to your own musical inspirations. Here are some of my personal favorite covers.
No Doubt – It’s My Life” originally by Talk Talk
This ska-meets-80s new wave mix just makes this track awesome. It still captures the splendor of the original but still puts its own fresh spin on it.
Nirvana – “D-7” originally by The Wipers
Covering one of their major influences, Nirvana give this punk classic a slamming and loud rendition. It’s raw and intense, just as intended.
Nirvana – “Jesus Doesn’t Want Me for a Sunbeam” originally by The Vaselines
This melancholy parody of an old Christian folk song gets a nice and rocking remake. The live version from their Halloween show (live at the Paramount) is perfect, but you can also go with the essential version that appeared on “MTV Unplugged.”
Mudhoney – “Revolution” originally by Spacemen 3
I found a version of this live from ’89 and loved it. Mudhoney made it sound like their own song, and honestly, if they hadn’t mentioned it was a cover, I might not have ever known otherwise. It can be found on their EP “Mudhoney Plays Hate the Police.”
Foo Fighters – “Down in the Park” originally by Gary Numan
Dave and the boys make an already dark track sound even darker without reaching for industrial elements or shock value. They give this track a great amount of respect and out of the various cover tunes this band’s done, this remains a personal favorite.
Nine Inch Nails – “Metal” originally by Gary Numan
Staying true to the electronic nature of Numan’s material, NIN pay homage with a light industrial version of this classic, giving it its own dark and haunting feel.
Love Battery – “Ibiza Bar” originally by Pink Floyd
Psyche-grunge doing early Floyd? Of course! And they do it well. Remains one of my favorite Floyd covers, period.
The Vaselines – “Lithium” originally by Nirvana
Appearing on the digital album SPIN magazine released to celebrate the twentieth anniversary of Nirvana’s “Nevermind,” this track is truly haunting. I mean, the original is pretty heavy in theme to begin with if you really think about where the lyrics are coming from, but the Vaselines just make it that much darker. It sounds like nothing they’ve done before; I didn’t know the band could make music like this.
The Lovemongers – “Battle of Evermore” Originally by Lead Zeppelin
Appearing on the soundtrack for the film, Singles, this track stood out for me despite being side by side tunes by Hendrix, Alice In Chains and the Smashing Pumpkins. First of all, it’s a Lead Zeppelin cover that is actually done well. Secondly, I believe it’s all women performing. Thirdly, they made it sound just as good as the original but still kept it somewhat unique. This is seriously an awesome track and it’s no wonder the single is going for so much cash!
Moby – “New Dawn Fades” originally by Joy Division
I personally like Moby, particularly when he gets into rock, ambient or other wild experimental stuff. When this cover showed up on “I Like to Score,” after appearing on Scream, I was kind of surprised. Moby tends to have this signature sound and sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t. Here, it works well… like, really well. I know some folks are screaming “sacrilege!” but I think this isn’t half bad. It shows that Moby has range and has a broad sense of taste. Rock on, dude.
Yoko Kanno / The Seatbelts “On The Run” originally by Pink Floyd
Cowboy Bebop is one of the most liked and highly regarded animes to come over from Japan, especially one that was intended for older audiences. When you’re pumping out decently written and thick-plotted shows, you need to have a stellar soundtrack to go with it. Kanno is probably the best person for the job, composing hundreds of tracks for anime from all ends of the spectrum. This particular cover of Floyd appeared in one of the darkest episodes of the show, during a scene in which we witness the genetic engineering and mental conditioning of a super soldier prototype. The scene was particularly graphic and powerful, and this track fit it perfectly. Hats off to you, Yoko. However, this track didn’t appear on official soundtracks, and although it shows up on an unofficial box set, Floyd goes uncredited. What can you expect from a bootleg?
Editors – “Orange Crush” originally by REM
An indie band doing a fairly good rendition of the REM classic. So far, no one can top it, as far as REM covers go. Awesome.
Johnny Cash – “Hurt” originally by Nine Inch Nails
How could I overlook this? Cash’s own life experiences make this version of the song sound like his own, and even Reznor agrees. Simple, flawless and unimaginably powerful.
Orbital – “Doctor ?” originally by Rob Grainer at the BBC
Electronic masterminds Orbital cover the theme to the epic and hopefully never ending sci-fi series, Doctor Who. Aside from the album version, a live mix of this track exists on the groups Glastonbury anthology. Geek out!
Rats With Wings – “Hungry Like the Wolf” originally by Duran Duran
The 80s pop sensation gets a mellowed out acoustic rework here. It sounds almost melancholy. This gives a whole new perspective on this iconic track, and yet it’s rather unknown. I had heard it on one of my local indie stations but have had the worst time trying to track it down online so I could buy this disc. I’m not even sure a physical version exists.
Indian Ropeman – “Sunshine of Your Love” originally by Cream
Skint Records releases another big beat hit with Sanjiv Sen’s sitar genius. Though an instrumental, this thumping remake is hard to resist. Who would have thought a wild techno / mid-eastern cover of an old psyche era Clapton track would sound so funky?
There are countless others, but if I listed them all, I’d have a novel posted up here. Maybe I’ll continue this list and post a newer edition sometime down the line….