Under the Covers

Girl in a Coma’s Adventures in Coverland is a good covers album. The songs they chose to include work well together as a soundtrack to a subway ride or a walk out to run errands. I’ve been playing it over and over again like a mantra.

It must be a Rite of Passage at Blackheart Records for all bands who sign to cover songs as well as Joan Jett, the label’s founder. Like her cover of Tommy James and the Shondell’s Crimson and Clover or The Dollyrots’ (the band that got me to dig deeper into Blackheart Records) cover of Melanie’s Brand New Key, Girl in a Coma successfully etches their name onto Patsy Cline’s Walkin’ After Midnight without marring it.  It’s a good cover.  

It’s a good cover because they did more than just speed it up and made it crunchy. It’s good because it goes deeper than mimicry – When she sings the song, I am convinced she wrote the song regardless of the truth.

Everyone has an opinion about what a good song is. Everyone seems even more opinionated about what a good cover song is! (Why do I even bother reading the “comments”?)

And there are lists, endless lists – the 50 Greatest, the 20 Best, the World’s Greatest, the Decade’s Best, and so on, and so on – I ‘m surprised there isn’t a list of the Ten Best Lists!

I’m no music critic or expert. No one’s going to be publishing my lists. I’m just someone who enjoys music and to me, a good cover song is one that makes me question my unfaltering belief that it is an original. I have a head full of songs I didn’t know were covers until someone told me they were – Elvis doing Mama Thorton’s Hound Dog, Soft Cell doing Gloria Jone’s Tainted Love, and Joan Jett doing The Arrow’s I Love Rock and Roll, just to name a few.

I also have a CD rack full of great covers albums. David Bowie’s Pin Ups is the first one that comes to mind. Nick Cave’s Kicking Against the Pricks and Elvis Costello’s Kojak Variety follow immediately after. They’re great cover albums because once I learned the tracks weren’t originals, I was inspired to dig deeper for the originals (like Nick Cave’s Hammer Song or Elvis Costello’s I’ve Been Wrong Before).

I know all of the originals on Girl in a Coma’s Adventures in Coverland except the Selena songs. I am awed by their cover of Joy Division’s Transmission and wowed by their cover of David Bowie’s As the World Falls Down from the 80’s movie, The Labyrinth. And despite the language barrier, I dug around YouTube and found the originals to Si Una Vez and Como La Flor.

But perhaps the greatest testimonial of a good covers album is when you go out and buy other albums by the band based on the impression it left. I bought Girl in a Coma’s Trio BC based on how much I’ve played Adventures in Coverland.

In the pauses between tracks, I wonder what covers of Girl in a Coma songs will sound like and who’ll step up to do them. Secondhand Songs is a covers database. The Covers Project is taking the collection of cover songs a step further by creating “cover chains.” They are tracking the dissemination of a song through the frequency of its “covering” (how often it is covered).

The OC Weekly has a well written review of Adventures in Coverland.

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