Sunday, August 18, 2019

Stairway Gateway to heaven

Artists can be gateway drugs to other artists in a number of ways: by drawing discernible musical inspiration from them, by taking them on tour, by talking them up in interviews, by choosing to cover their songs. In an article compiled by Patrick Clarke, Quietus writers have reflected on the covers that took them "to a new musical world".

Back in October I too was writing about remarkable covers, prompted by an episode of Sounding Bored, and it was gratifying to find two of them featured in the Quietus' list. The Futureheads' 'Hounds Of Love' was one of Clarke's own choices; personally, it gave me a renewed (rather than new-found) appreciation of Kate Bush's genius, and his assessment is rather sniffy. For what it's worth, I completely disagree that it's cringey or head and shoulders above "the rest of their passable indie pop"; on the contrary, I'd argue that The Futureheads made the song their own to the extent that I actually prefer their version to the original.

My selection of Sonic Youth's 'Superstar' in October proved contentious with the Sounding Bored team, with at least one podcast participant claiming that it was a cheap, smirking potshot at the Carpenters - so it's gratifying to read that Jude Rogers shares my own very different view of the cover as a sincere tribute that leads the listener to appreciate the "depth of feeling" in both the original and the rest of Karen and Richard's back catalogue.

Luke Turner also acknowledges Sonic Youth's ability to open doors and minds, picking out the version of The Stooges' 'I Wanna Be Your Dog' on Confusion Is Sex. Any excuse to rewatch the footage of them performing the song on TV, together with assorted extras including a crazed flute player, is very welcome indeed.

Meanwhile, my list made mention of Therapy? and the way in which 'Isolation' (on 1994's Troublegum) helped to introduce "a whole load of impressionable grunge-era kids like me to Joy Division" - but I actually chose 'Diane', which has never succeeded in getting me hooked on Husker Du (I still can't get over the production quality of the latter's LPs - my loss, I know...).

Back to the Quietus' selection, I'm with Brian Coney when he singles out Graham Coxon's The Golden D as the record that first brought Mission To Burma to his attention; Jacques Brel features no fewer than three times courtesy of covers by Scott Walker; and the fact that Jeff Buckley's 'Hallelujah' isn't included is indeed deserving of a "Hallelujah" (Leonard Cohen is represented, however, by Nick Cave's 'I'm Your Man', as is Rufus Wainwright - though not by his own take on 'Hallelujah').

The article may well prove to have been a gateway drug in its own right - certainly, the Loop and Spacemen 3 covers of The Pop Group and 13th Floor Elevators respectively have struck a chord personally, and I was pleasantly surprised (despite initial misgivings) by both Frankie Goes To Hollywood's 'Born To Run' and Pavement's 'The Killing Moon'.

If I had to make my own contribution to the list, it would be hard to look past The Jesus & Mary Chain's 'Surfin USA'. They gave the Beach Boys classic the full trashy Psychocandy make-over, simultaneously establishing themselves as being in the same pop lineage and flagging up the fact that Brian Wilson's crew were worthy of serious investigation even for someone with tastes at the far noisier end of the musical spectrum.

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