It’s rare that a cover of a song will sound better than the original (see also “Watchtower” a la Bob Dylan –> Jimi Hendrix –> Dave Matthews Band). Once in a while an artist will come along and make it their own. Covers will fall into one of three categories for me.
#1…The Karaoke Version – Maybe it was thrown on the album as a filler or it could have been a genuine attempt to make something great. Out of the different types of covers, this one misses the mark most for me.
#2…The “I Can Do It Better By Slowing It Down” Version – Most artists attempt and fail miserably at this one. The exception to the rule would have to be Eric Clapton’s version of “Layla” from MTV Unplugged…quite frankly, most of the artists that did their own Unplugged achieved this honor.
#3…The “I Can Do It Just Like The Original, But Better” Version – Nirvana would be a good example of this. On there Unplugged In New York album, they played very few of their own songs, but played the songs they grew up with and were influenced by. Classics like “Pennyroyal Tea” and “The Man Who Sold The World” came from that album.
Between albums, Local H put out EPs and one Local H’s Awesome Mix Tape #1 is exactly as the EP is called. It’s an awesome mix of songs that go together very well. If you were to make a mix tape of the originals of this EP and then made a mix tape of the covers by Local H, arguably the one that was done by Local H would sound more awesome.
I stumbled on them after finding “Wolf Like Me”. I love the original by TV On The Radio it’s got a great guitar riff and vocals just weave in and out like a longboarder on a seaside boardwalk. Cue the Local H version…with about 7% more energy than the TV On The Radio version, I started hitting that one on repeat.
One good cover on an album is good. More than one is rare. Cue “Joey” from Concrete Blonde. A staple of MTV in the early 1990s, played constantly and told a real story about someone’s love of alcohol. The way Local H treats this track, particularly, but also as a whole on the album, is with a certain level of respect. And I can respect that.
I think the best way to sum up the album is if Local H invited you to their living room for an intimate evening and started out by saying, “Hey, these are some of the songs that inspired us from artists that we respect. We hope you enjoy them as much as we do.”
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