The AV Club Undercover is preparing to roll out a new season of indie bands covering songs, and they’re taking suggestions. Team PCHA: Mobilize!
You can vote on several categories of songs to be included in the project (John Hughes Soundtracks, Yacht Rock, Prince, etc.) and suggest other songs to be covered and the bands who will do the covering. There are some good choice on there, but it’s the open balloting that most intrigues me.
Of course, we at PCHA are well-established cover song aficianados, so the least we can do is help out our friends at the AV Club by blowing their minds with song-and-band pairings that are too good to pass up.
Selecting the right artist to play the right cover is more art than science: it requires knowledge of each, but also the imagination to see how they’d fit together. Also, let’s be realistic about this: U2 are not going to be stopping by the AV Club’s Chicago studios to do a quick performance of a Tokyo Police Club song. I’m also trying to stay away from artists and songs that have been covered a million times already. No one needs another version of “All Along the Watchtower.”
So close your eyes, and imagine these pairings. And then start a fantasy league for cover songs and use this as your first-round cheat sheet:
Titus Andronicus/Luckenbach, Texas — Titus Andronicus can slip a country twang into their Springsteen-meets-pop punk riffs. You can hear it most clearly on The Monitor’s “Theme From Cheers.” It would be a rare pleasure to hear their take on this Waylon Jennings shit-kicker.
The Broken West/Walk of Life — After being played to every sports highlight reel for a decade, Dire Straits’ anthem has fallen into sad disrepair. Let the Broken West revive it by filtering out the synths and adding their brisk California pop sensibility.
Free Energy/Dancing on My Own — Pairing the Philadelphia retro-rockers with Swedish pixie dance diva Robyn may seem like an odd choice, but Robyn’s best singles seem eminently translatable to guitar-based rock. And “Dancing” would sound great with lead guitarist Geoff Bucknam’s ’70s swagger.
Dum Dum Girls/Sitting on the Dock of the Bay — Of all the new, trendy fuzzed-out girl pop bands, I like Dum Dum Girls the best. Let’s see them try a sped-up, distorted version of the Otis Redding classic. Nothing could improve on the original, obviously, but that needn’t always be the goal of covers. Hearing familiar songs in a new way can be rewarding too.
We Were Promised Jetpacks/The Concept — Can’t we do something about all this Scot-on-Scot crime? I’d love to hear the Jetpacks boys add some muscle to the Teenage Fanclub classic.
Queens of the Stone Age/Kicks — This uptempo Okkervil River song is crying out for a harder-edge treatment than Will Sheff and his band of alt-country merrymen can give it. Ideally, Rage Against the Machine should air it out, but I don’t think they’re showing up at the AV Club anytime soon.
Cat Power/I and Love and You — A raggedy, earnest heartbreaker from the Avett Brothers. It needs either a sarcastic edge (Stephen Malkmus) or someone who can really, really sing.
Clap Your Hands Say Yeah/Keeping the Faith — Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, you guys. Never forget.
TV on the Radio/Rag Mama Rag — How not to do it: Travis’s weak, limpid cover of “The Weight” from a few years ago. Another hodgepodge of two vastly different styles but sometimes Americana just needs to get out of its own way.
King Khan & the Shrines/Misty Mountain Hop — Khan’s slightly punkish version of garage rock could rescue a song on which Zeppelin’s proggier tendencies did some damage in the studio.
Lucero/Let’s Get Out of this Country — The Camera Obscura song is great but oh so twee. It needs drive. It needs power. It needs Ben Nichols’ voice.
Neko Case/Sister Christian — Look, a guy can dream, can’t he? Sister Christian’s slightly creepy vibe would morph into something more sororal, and holy shit could Neko belt out the chorus. Lord knows I love “Sister Christian” just as it is, but I can easily imagine it improving stripped of its ’80s-centric arrangement. Envision the song as a torch ballad…