Cover songs are often very hit and miss, with more usually falling into the “miss” category and being altogether unnecessary. Being able to choose what covers you perform is all well and good but having to choose one from a pre-prepared list removes an element of comfort which is exactly what the A.V. Club’s Uncovered is all about.
Armed with an extremely well-chosen list of songs, a round room and constant stream of talent, the A.V. Club challenges artists to pick a song and play it, while passing through the city of Chicago in Illinois. Of course there are turkeys, and musical taste is very subjective, but I’ve assembled a list of 8 covers that I found particularly good or amusing.
You can watch the rest on the A.V. Club’s YouTube channel.
Punch Brothers cover The Cars
American prog-bluegrass heroes Punch Brothers dare to tackle the 1978 hit single from The Cars, complete with a violin and banjo. The band admit that the song appeals to them “because it’s an awesome song” so perhaps they’re not quite out of their comfort zone here, but regardless the folk twist on this late 70s number is worth watching right till the very end.
The Low Anthem covers Wilco
There are a number of bands that many would consider “hard to cover” not necessarily because the songs are difficult to get right but because the originals are so well regarded – a fact true for much of Wilco‘s back catalogue. A good band will always use the opportunity to perform a cover to stamp their sound on a classic song, and that’s just what The Low Anthem have done here with Wilco‘s epic A Shot in the Arm from 1999’s Summerteeth.
Reggie Watts covers Van Halen
Taking the word cover and applying it in the loosest possible sense of the word, Reggie Watts puts on a signature performance with this performance of Van Halen‘s Panama. What follows isn’t a cover as such but more of a re-imagination of the 1984 metal hit. Bear in mind that Reggie Watts is a comedian with a very unique musical style, then check out the comments section for “real” Van Halen fans who expected something else.
Ted Leo & The Pharmacists cover Tears for Fears
While this cover of the Tears for Fears smash hit isn’t too dissimilar from the original, I can’t think of a better band to take on this song. Bold, brash and complete with a thundering rhythm guitar, Ted Leo and his band give the original 1985 release which has gone on to define the band’s most successful hour.
The Mountain Goats cover Jawbreaker
Cynical folk rock legends The Mountain Goats aren’t exactly punk rock but in this cover of Jawbreaker by Boxcar they prove their worth on an iconic song from 1994. As ever John Darnielle’s unique, melodic yet stylishly whine is put to good use, with his usual sharp tone at home on a raw 90s hit that was written at a time when Green Day had yet to be disowned by the punk rock community.
Of Montreal covers The White Stripes
While this cover of Jack White’s eponymous 1999 hit isn’t exactly different, it was difficult to leave it out thanks to my huge soft spot for Of Montreal. The band have been playing together for nearly 20 years having formed in 1996 in Georgia, exploring a number of musical styles to evolve into the bouncy, sugar sweet pop infused psychedelic rock band they are today. Seven Nation Army probably isn’t their greatest cover but the vocals and music are given their signature treatment so it all turns out well!
Trampled By Turtles covers Arcade Fire
I know what you’re thinking – you can’t cover Arcade Fire, and those that do are asking for trouble. Relax, this not a bad Arcade Fire cover at all (though saying that I do make a point of avoiding most of them) and fits with Trampled by Turtles‘ unique bluegrass sound. The song is Rebellion (Lies) from the 2004 album that took the world by storm called Funeral. TBT achieve a surprisingly full spectrum of sound here considering the number of performers required on stage at your average Arcade Fire show.
GWAR covers Kansas
Finally there’s some comedy (not forgetting Reggie Watts above, of course) in the form of satirical heavy metal band GWAR covering Kansas’ Carry on Wayward Son from the 1976 album Leftoverture. GWAR are (clearly) notable for their sci-fi and fantasy inspired outfits which they have been wearing since 1984 when the band formed in Virginia. Since then they’ve been making headlines with their lyrics, stage shows and choice of attire and this cover is a good primer for anyone not familiar with their music.
Did you enjoy these covers? Any others you liked more? Let us know what you think in the comments, below.