Covering the Best

Covers.  They are as much a part of music as anything else.  A great cover can put a band on the map while murdering a classic is never a good career move.  So what makes a cover stand up?  Why are people like Marilyn Manson and Johnny Cash as well known for their interpretations of someone else’s music as they are their own?  While others efforts are scorned.

This was inspired by a couple of covers releases in the last week.  First up is the Stone Sour EP Straight Outta Burbank in which they reinterpret such obscure bands as Iron MaidenThe Rolling Stones and Slayer by, well, playing them in the exact same way.  On the other hand, you have Danzig with his recorded in a cereal box (which I must credit to That’s Not MetalSkeleton in which he tackles Black SabbathThe Everley Brothers and ZZ Top just plain badly.  And the question for both of these releases has to be, why?

You see neither of these releases did any of these songs better than the original.  I mean as much as I love Corey Taylor did he seriously think he could improve on ‘Gimme Shelter’?  While Danzig just takes a giant shit on top of ‘N.I.B’.  This isn’t Cash putting his heart and soul into ‘Hurt’ or the Big Four introducing Diamond Head to a whole new generation.  It fails on both counts of what could make a great cover.

Which if you haven’t figured out are quite simple.  One, do something different.  Whether it’s finding something in the song that was there already and bringing it to the fore or twisting it beyond all recognition, the best covers are unique.  Play something note for note and why should I bother listening to it?  Two, choose a different band.  If I type ‘Gimme Shelter’ into Spotify there are versions from everyone from Sisters of Mercy to Puddle Of Mudd.  It has been done.  You are not introducing a kick ass band to people.  You are rehashing the same old.  The number of people turned onto The Misfits by Metallica’s Garage Inc is hefty.  Do you seriously think anyone’s going to get into Maiden because of Stone Sour doing ‘Running Free’?

Covers can be great, they really fucking can.  But too often they are lazy and dull.  Danzig and Stone Sour may really care about these releases, but it doesn’t feel like it.  They feel cobbled together and chucked out with no love or attention paid to them.  In six months, no one will remember them and their impact on the world will be negligible.  But oh well, at least we still have the originals.

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