Doing someone else's tune better than they did it themselves is, for the most part, pretty hard. I love Nirvana, but their cover of "The Money Will Roll Right In" is balls compared to Fang. Covering is hard! Most of the time it ends up sounding like...

Apr 30 2010, 3:07pm

Doing someone else's tune better than they did it themselves is, for the most part, pretty hard. Most of the time it ends up sounding like bad karaoke. I love Nirvana, but their cover of "The Money Will Roll Right In" is balls compared to Fang. Covering is hard! But sometimes the coverer actually one-ups the coveree. Then it's like, nice one, dudes. Here is my list of the top 10 nice-one-dude covers:

1. The Sharades covering "Dumb Head" by Ginny Arnell

When Ginny Arnell sings this song the lyrics seem pathetic and forced. It sounds like she is auditioning for a school play. When The Sharades do it, Dumb Head is suddenly the cheekiest slumber party anthem that ever existed.

2. Quix*o*tic covering "Lord of this World" by Black Sabbath

I need to preface this one by stating the obvious: no band can one-up Sabbath on their own song. Case closed. However, out of all the attempts at making a Sabbath song their own, Quix*o*tic is the only band who comes close. This cover is spooky-scary slow. It melts like ice cream into your ears. Sly, anti-folk ice cream.

3. Makeout Videotape covering "I Guess the Lord Must Be in New York City" by Harry Nilsson

Makeout Videotape are two pizza-face teenage boys from Canada who make low-fi pop music. They turned Nilsson's wispy dreamer hymn into a scratchy sing-a-long. It's a vanilla shake vs. fizzy Mountain Dew kind of thing (I like Mountain Drew better).

4. Them covering "It's All Over Now Baby Blue" by Bob Dylan

This cover is perfect. It is p-e-r-f-e-c-t. I'll admit that I have a bias in favor of Van Morrison because I have been forced to listen to Them since I was in the womb. I don't rebel against this, I consider it a privilege and I embrace it. I'm lucky because my parents could have been into Santana or some other annoying bullshit. Them are an amazing band. In this case, Them take Dylan's classic combo of nasal gurgles and steady acoustics and replace them with thick, warm bass lines and up tempo brush-like drums while Van's wailing howl leads the vitality. It's like Dylan made the blueprint, but Van built the house. Jesus that's corny.

5. Mamas and the Papas covering "Twist and Shout" written by Phil Medley and Bert Russell

Listening to the Mamas and the Papas do "Twist and Shout" is like taking a xanax nap curled up in a water bed hung from cumulus clouds and moon beams. Next time you are coming down from a night of destruction, listen to this song and do a slow, slow, slow twist.

6. Grace Jones covering "She's Lost Control" by Joy Division

I love Joy Division as much as the next guy wearing a Joy Division shirt, but Grace Jones kicks the fuck out of this song. Ian Curtis does it his way - drawn out, doleful and humble - but Grace Jones turns it into a crazy cocktail of synths and reggae-esque drums beaten to death with shithead psychedelia and anger. This cover seems to never end and I love it.

7. John Frusciante covering "Big Take Over" by Bad Brains

Again, it's pretty hard to one-up a Bad Brains song, but Frusciante turns "Big Take Over" into the complete opposite of what it once was. The guitar is beautiful, his voice is like top-grade, white beach sand and the whole song just melts into the speakers making me wish that Frusciante was my boyfriend and would lullaby me to sleep with his magical lulling presence. I know what you think of me talking about John Frusciante like this, but guess what? I don't care.

8. Hole covering "Credit in the Straight World" by Young Marble Giants

The YMG are one of my favorite bands on the goddamn planet and if it wasn't for Hole, I would have never found out they existed. YMG do this song like they do all their songs--sweet and monotone--but Hole turns it into a thundering, tragic tale of drug world cred. The angry guitar makes so much sense.

9. Dinosaur Jr. covering "Show Me the Way" by Peter Frampton

Made simple by the fact that Peter Frampton blows.

10. The Cake covering "You Can Have Him" performed by Nancy Wilson

Not only is this cover a million times better than the original, but the video is incredible. One of the three members stands still while her two bandmates groove like a bunch of juiced up go-go dancers. This song was originally written for the musical Miss Liberty and, after hearing The Cake do it, makes no fucking sense on Broadway. This song is everything a 60s girl-band track should sound like: sassy, deep, danceable and tragic.


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