There’s a show on the radio called ‘The Live Lounge’ wherein musical guests are requested to turn out a cover version and it’s often one that reaches across genres. That’s fine and something to be encouraged too, but such versions often seem to come with self-satisfaction, smugness and to be drunk on irony. It’s like the performer wants credit for being so open-minded as to play their version of a tune by perhaps some new pop flavour of the month or it’s a pop act doing something by Radiohead, for example. The point being that media output always seems to underline the differences between genres, like it’s a big thing to like one thing and another, when, to my mind, how else should one live? Why wouldn’t someone like country, reggae and electronic bleeping?
Anytime I’d go around someone’s house my annoying habit would be to dive for their music collections and then make an extrapolation on what kind of person they are from the music that they listen to. Now, I’ll politely ask for their phone or other device and thumb around, looking at what they’re holding. Actual people like so many types of music. I’ve just always found this to hold true and so don’t really get the point when it’s painted as anything other than a natural occurrence.
The below is the powerhouse trio ‘Big Black’ essaying their version of The Mary Jane Girls’ tune ‘In My House’. Leader singer and guitarist, Steve Albini, was and is a well known provocateur (hugely intelligent too: always read his interviews, if you see any) and perhaps was trying to get a rise out of Big Black fans? Yet their version was released on a 5″ vinyl record to go with a retrospective video of a live concert five years after they split so, by that time, who cared?
I think that there is some obvious knowingness to this cover version but the reason it hits home is that it’s done with full commitment to the song itself. The tune is sung from a woman’s point of view and Albini sings it from that woman’s perspective. Previously, cover versions could sometimes change the sex, like Tiffany’s leaden ‘I Saw Him Standing There’ but this doesn’t, although it comes from that same era. Now, with the massively changed attitudes to gay marriage, changing the sex of a song might be problematic but, then, it evidently was different.
Another one along these lines, of the artist with a bestowed ‘quality’ covering an allegedly fluffy, inconsequential pop act is folk-rock genius, Richard Thompson, doing Britney’s song.
There a little allusions to incongruousness but his talk at the start makes it clear that he’s covering a great song (he evens puts in a medieval guitar flourish interpretation towards its end) and one that belongs in his ‘1000 Years of Popular Music‘ canon