Cover Songs

So, I was listening to Sirius (Hard Attack) and they played Trivium’s (WTF kind of name…?) cover of Master of Puppets. Now the song sounds just like the original, except that it lacks Metallica’s signature heavy sound. Trivium’s version is a bit more tinny, and IMO inferior as a result. Still, it’s basically the exact same song and the singer even does a decent job of sounding like Hetfield.

Here is my question. What’s the point? Why do a cover song that sounds almost exactly like the original? At a live concert, it’s pretty cool. But this is a single. To be fair, it’s a successful single, as it’s being played in the “Devil’s Dozen,” which is like a daily countdown of top requests. So they are making money from it. But I still don’t like it.

To me, a good cover song is something like Hazy Shade of Winter, a true remake of the original. Smooth Criminal is another nice example. Whether you like these covers or not, they add something of the band doing the covering.

So am I just being crotchety or is there something wrong with doing a perfect cover that changes nothing?

Prefect covers are boring.

The only cover I really like is Head On by the Pixies. I also am quite fond of the Jesus and Mary Chain as well. Either way, good song.

I can’t stand covers that just ape the original because, as you say, what’s the point? The best covers are those that deconstruct the original, revealing something that may have been hidden or buried. A good example is that Frente! cover of New Order’s “Bizarre Love Triangle” - by stripping away all the wacky production and studio trickery that New Order is rightly famous for, Frente! showed us that the real reason New Order is so great is that, at the core, they write great pop songs.

I’m right there with you. For starters, 99% of the cover versions out there just make me want to hear the original more. Every now and again someone nails a cover (like Luna’s languorous “Sweet Child O’ Mine”) and it does totally work.

The only cover soundalike I’ve heard that I found mildly intriguing was by a fellow named David Grahame; he did a version of “Hello Goodbye” a few years ago that was so indistinguishable from the original that it sounded like an alternate take from Sir Paul. I figured if I could sing that much like a legend, I’d wanna show that off, too.

Jawbox’s version of Tori Amos’ “Cornflake Girl” always makes me happy.

I miss Jawbox…

That’s a great example. In fact, it’s the exact one that popped into my head when I saw the original post.

If you like cover versions you should subscribe to the Coverville podcast. This guy hosts a show with a whole bunch of interesting and lesser-heard cover versions. Just type “Coverville” into your iTunes podcast search.

Considering my own fascination with covers, you just made me listen to my very first podcast ever… I liked it. Thanks!

I like lots of Me First and the Gimme Gimme’s covers (which is basically all they do) and Nina Gordon’s cover of “Straight Outta Compton” is always good for a laugh and I love some of the other covers already mentioned (Pixie’s “Head On”)…

But I agree with the original poster. I like Echo and the Bunnymen, but why cover “People are Strange” while leaving no distinguishable mark on it?

At Summer Sanitarium a couple years back, Limp Bizkit did a goddamned awesome cover of Master of Puppets. It was fantastic.

Bleah. Roger Daltrey’s cover of “Don’t Let The Sun Go Down On Me” is the better cover off the timeless The Lost Boys soundtrack.

I’ve never understood it. For instance, a lot of heavy/hardcore bands seem to think that simply screaming the lyrics to parts of the song constitutes an original cover. It doesn’t. So when, say, Evergreen Terrace does Sunday Bloody Sunday just by screaming it, pretty weak…when they do Dance Maniac OTOH, it’s awesome… Local H’s cover of Britney Spears’ Toxic is nothing short of awesome.

So I guess the correct answer for me is that covering rock or metal is usually a mistake unless there is a big difference in how the band sounds and what they do with the song (Tool’s No Quarter springs to mind). But turning pop into metal is usually a win-win proposition, because catchy hooks and silly lyrics turned up to 11 are always going to win a place in my heart.

Holy crap, I know what album I’m picking up today!

Give it a listen at

Thanks, LK and Poops. That IS a good cover.

Nickel Creek’s cover of Toxic is great as well.

I can’t believe no one has mentioned Hurt. Too easy?

There’s a whole different thread (linked above, I think) that covers great cover songs. This one is more about whether it is acceptable to do exact covers and where to draw the line.


I think that was my bad, but I felt that my opinion could not be accurately backed without examples. Plus that cover is so sweet I just try to mention it as often as I can. It reminds me of what Ahmet and Dweezil Zappa attempted with Baby One More Time on the Ready To Rumble soundtrack, except much more successfully. (see there I go again)

And to place it in the context of the discussion, the Hurt cover is an example of the kind of thing that does work, reinventing a song not only in another genre but in another artist’s image. Hell, Reznor himself said he can’t go back to his version anymore, although that may be faux angstiness on his part.

But the genre thing is definitely the easy route to a good cover. The further away it is (ie rock to death metal has a 50/50 chance of working vs pop to metal which is closer to 90/10 depending on the artist) from its origins, the better.

I’ll also admit a certain weakness to bands that sound great and unique live when they cover classic songs, like for instance when Pearl Jam ran with The Who’s Baba O’Reilly for entire tours, or when APC did Bowie’s Ashes to Ashes.

Which incidentally reminds of another great and probably more controversial style of cover, which is the merging of classic bits of great songs with others, like what PJ does again and again in the midst of a live guitar solo (remixing their songs with whatever the hell crosses McCready’s head), or what APC did with Ozzie’s Diary of a Madman and The Cure’s Lovesong.

This is not to be confused with sampling or rap/hip hop/pop remixing, of course, which for a variety of reasons is, I think, a totally separate category of music.

And I can’t believe anyone had the bad taste to mention the unmentionable…even in a negative context, Fred Durst and his monstrosity of a band are in the same category as bizarre horror movie adversaries, in that they must not be mentioned lest we all be destroyed. Please stop.

So much of a good cover song has to do with context. The reason Tori Amos’ cover of “Smells Like Teen Spirit” is so good is that it divorces the lyric from the agressiveness of the original’s setting, so that you can see there was more to Nirvana’s music than warmed-over Pixies riffs (albiet awesome warmed-over Pixies riffs).

One of my all-time favourite covers is Dinosaur Jr. insane shredding of The Cure’s “Just Like Heaven”, which was mentioned in the other thread as well. This works on any number of levels, not the least of which was how it helped underscore the fuzzy pop centre that was hiding amongst the sea of distortion that was Mascis’ songs at the time. At the same time, it also showed how easily Robert Smith’s lyrics could degenerate into pure, uncontrollable rage - when Dinosaur Jr. kicks into the chorus, they change the “You” to a massive, white noise, speaker-destroying roar. The first time I heard it, it sent chills up my spine.

The best covers not only show you something new and interesting about the original, but also reveal something about the band that’s covering them.