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Too many covers?

December 21st, 2007

Is it just me or was 2007 an excessive year for covers?

(That is, musicians playing other musician’s songs, not blankets and sheets.)

A sample of bands that released entire cover albums in 2007: Placebo, Dashboard Confessional, Ben Lee, New Found Glory. Add to that the tribute, benefit albums and soundtracks (John Lennon, Smashing Pumpkins, “Across the Universe” to name a few)—and that’s before every other cover tossed off in the studio or captured at a live concert on a cell phone.

If I’m right—and I don’t have the time to spend on the Internet compiling a database of covers released in 2007, compared to previous years—I think it’s indicative of the rise of iTunes and the return of the single as the preferred music purchase. Besides, a well-placed cover can be a great way for a band to get attention (Limp Bizkit, anyone?).

But, now the trend seems to be that artists are now covering songs barely even a few weeks old. Here’s just a small sampling of songs that came out in 2007, covered by other artists in 2007, from the good to the not-so-good. I’ll be back Thursday with my run-down of my favorite songs of the year—and surprise, surprise, some of these original cuts are on the list. Most of these songs can be acquired as MP3s with a quick google.com search.

Ben Lee- “New Wave.” Lee is the biggest culprit on this list—he covered Against Me!’s album “New Wave” in its entirety simply because he wondered what the hard-edge pop-rockers would sound like acoustically. It’s a free download on his myspace.com page, worth it for the title cut and an introduction to Against Me!

Kate Nash- “Fluorescent Adolescent” and “I’m Not Gonna Teach Your Boyfriend How To Dance With You.” Nash is a repeat offender, covering both the strongest cut from the Arctic Monkeys latest and The Black Kids. She’s got a good voice, which takes some of the edge off of the Arctic Monkey’s “Fluorescent Adolescent,” bringing the song’s bounce to the forefront. Nash and The Black Kids were both profiled as one of Rolling Stone’s hot artists to watch in 2008, but the teen spirit charm of “I’m Not Gonna…” doesn’t survive the transition from one to the other.

Franz Ferdinand- “All My Friends.” Franz tries really, really hard to capture the epic sound of LCD Soundsystem’s instant classic, but… sorry. The syth-rock interpretation is more organic and loose than the original, but neither quality really made the song—it’s all in the vocal delivery. Alex Kapranos is a good rock singer, but he sounds like he’s smoked one to many cigarettes to capture the excitement of this one.

Foo Fighters- “Keep the Car Running.” Credit where credit is due—Dave Grohl does Arcade Fire proud. He’s got the energy, intensity and personality for this song. Too bad then, that in some of the MP3s circulating the Internet, he forgets the words. 

The Most Dangerous Race- “Signal to Noise.” This is probably my favorite Smashing Pumpkins song from the Zeitgeist era. Sadly, it was cut from the album—probably a bit too poppy for Billy Corgan’s re-envisioning of the band. Thankfully, a cover wound up on the myspace.com tribute disc, performed by Matt Walker (Filter, Pumpkins fill-in drummer). The Pumpkins, still trying to hold on to any relevance, will release an iTunes exclusive acoustic EP, “American Gothic” on Jan. 2.

The Choir Practice- “Failsafe.” It’s not really fair to include this as a 2007 song covered in 2007, but the Internet isn’t really clear on its origins. New Pornographers member A.C. Newman wrote this song “and then we stole it,” said a Choir Practice member at a concert in May, up on youtube.com (how long ago he wrote it is unclear… any die hard New Pornographer fans out there want to help me?) However, wikipedia.com says Newman originally wrote the song for The Choir Practice, but either way, it appears on both band’s 2007 albums. Both are excellent and worth multiple repeats.

Calexico- “Ocean of Noise.” A desolate, country-tinged version of another Arcade Fire cut. I’m sure Arcade Fire appreciates all the attention, but it’s too bad this song—both versions—sounds like a Joshua Tree outtake.

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