Pop culture treasure, high culture trash.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

The covers issue

How bad is the Fiery Furnaces cover of "Norwegian Wood"? All I know is that its badness is easily eclipsed by the Nouvelle Vague cover of "Guns of Brixton," which is the ass-wonkedest drivel blue ribbon winner of this and yesteryear. Being annoyed by this version of the song feels strangely purposeless and post facto, since people have been grousing that the Clash appropriated reggae through it for more than 20 years. Getting yr dander up b/c Nouvelle Vague are just now buffing it to a fine bossa nova sheen could be seen as too little late.

Still, though, lining up one of Collin & Libaux's Pretty Ladies to sex-purr, "you can crush us/ you can bruise us/ yes, even shoot us" neuters the original politics of the song to such a palm-to-forehead, context-draining extent that all you can do while listening is wonder if maybe it really is time to have that cavity filled. And the sketchiest thing of all is that this seems to be the point of the entire Nouvelle Vague project, i.e., rounding up some young (read: stupid) female (read: pure, innocent) vocalists, throwing them in a studio with canonical 80s dance/goth/punk/pop and laughing at the irony that ensues. Some mod French babe butchering the Dead Kennedys! Hilarious!

What Nouvelle Vague don't seem to know is that there are only so many legit reasons to cover a song. Three, actually.

Reason to do a cover #1: MAKING A BAD SONG GOOD
This category includes all tracks, as previously blogged, wherein women cover the dino-core songbook and make them queer/feminist, but also things like Clem Snide's Xtina-redeeming "Beautiful."

Reason to do a cover #2: MAKING A GOOD SONG GREAT
Remember when Bratmobile did the Misfits' "Where Eagles Dare"? That was this. Also, the These Bones cover of "Toxic," which is sadly unavailable now but far superior to Local H's Nirvana clone shlock-a-thon version (really, wait for the chorus).

Reason to do a cover #3: SHOWING THAT A BAD SONG IS, ACTUALLY, BAD
Paul Anka Sinatrafying "It's My Life" and anything ever touched by the Moog Cookbook.

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