Tuesday, August 08, 2006

On a musical note... I never really got into Nirvana. Sure, as a 14 year old I could quite happily jump along to Smells Like Teen Spirit and other assorted grunge numbers, but their music never quite did it for me. Not that other stuff I listened to then was any better: those were my nu-metal days of Limp Bizkit and Korn. I still weep sometimes in remembrance.

So it was a pleasant surprise when on my gap year I listened to their Unplugged in New York album for the first time and found that some of the songs were actually really good, they were well written and had interesting lyrics. So I listened to them again. And then I did some research.

The songs that I enjoyed were: The Man Who Sold The World, Plateau, Oh, Me, Lake of Fire and Where Did You Sleep Last Night?

They were covers! All of them! No wonder they were my favourites, Nirvana had had nothing to do with them. That's the trouble with covers, and why I think they are much maligned by the musical press. It can incredibly embarrassing if you say something like 'Oh, I love that Nirvana song 'The Man Who Sold The World' ' to a David Bowie fan. After that you can never again trust songs, who knows who they were written by? Are you going to look like a musical ignoramus because you weren't aware that your favourite song was actually written by someone else entirely? It's just not the risk. So if everyone says that covers are pointless and stupid then perhaps no one will do them and these poor people won't make the same mistake again.

Which is a shame because I think covers are brilliant. Not generic cut and paste jobs, but when a band takes a song they like and makes it their own it shows the talent of the band and also pays great homage to the original writers. For instance, a Black Sabbath tribtue album got me into stoner rock. I started listening to Joy Division because of covers I'd heard. And of course, thanks to Nirvana I'm now a massive Meat Puppets fan. So yeah, go covers.

On a final note, it's a little bit unfair to say that 'Where Did You Sleep Last Night?' is a cover because Kurt Cobain and Mark Lanegan wrote it a few years before Nirvana. But I reckons Mark Lanegan was the main influence. That guy has the most beautiful voice around. It makes me want to smoke 60 a day and have a bottle of whiskey for breakfast just so I can have that same gravel pit vocal sound. Listen to his duet album with Isobel Campbell of Belle & Sebastian fame, you won't be disappointed.

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