Because I go on and off the radio–sometimes breaking for years at a time before returning to the radio–and because casual music listening itself has been transformed by the internet, I often miss out on music for years before noticing it. Recently, however, I had to change from the local jazz station to a pop station because I couldn’t handle a full hour of Samba music. (No offense meant to Samba, but after 45 minutes or so it gets a bit repetitive.)
I started out with the volume rather low, just as some kind of vehicular white noise. But my children, eager for some change or excitement to the day, begged for “more, more” music. So, I turned it up and the following horror assaulted me:
Now, I have confessed before to loving cover songs. In fact, I have written so often about cover songs that it must seem like an unhealthy obsession. But this version doesn’t seem to justify itself in any way. It is similar enough to the original that I thought it might be some strange remix. But then I shook my head out and wondered what the hell the reggae beat was doing there. And, I do like reggae. But here?
For better or worse, my car’s radio reports the name of a song and its performer so I discovered immediately that this crime was performed by 311, a fake reggae band that certainly should be listed as one of the worst bands of the 1990s. It has been so long since I considered 311 as anything other than an inexplicable crime against good taste, that I could not imagine something else to say about the band.
Until this. As I ‘theorize’ about in an earlier post, good covers have to be motivated in some way: they provide subtle but certain variations on the song characterized by the unique sound of the new performer (“variation on a theme”); they radically change a song and convert it to a new form or genre (“the paradigm shift”); or they force you to rethink the value of a song by performing it a new or surprising way (“prejudice surprise”).
This cover is none of those. It weakly transfers the brit-invasion sound to a cruise-ship reggae beat; it doesn’t even incorporate some of 311’s signature sound (the bouncy faux-hip-hop). Instead, what we end up with is a sad imitation of the original without any of Robert Smith’s angst or the haunting disembodied instrumentation that characterizes the Cure and the period (1989). I cannot understand why this cover was made and it is certainly one of the worse cover songs I have heard by a major band since I heard Bush mangle R.E.M.’s “Radio Song” live in 1995.
Man, after listening to this song again, I need a soul-colonic:
I have never talked about the Cure much other than to mention that their show was cancelled when I was in high school and I really wish it hadn’t been. I really love Robert Smith’s voice. I love many of their songs. The style is a bit anachronistic and makes me want a clove cigarette. The albums always have two-three great tracks. And the rest? Forgettable. But, also forgivable. Unlike 311.
So, my brother, what do you think? Is my horror justified or am I just Ignatius_J._Reillying up the place?