Tuesday, 27 April 2010

Cover Version Showdown #1: That's When I Reach For My Revolver

Okay, I just thought it would be interesting to look at some covers of songs, and compare them, like those arguments you have in the pub, only with videos as evidence.

The first showdown is That's When I Reach For My Revolver, written and first recorded by Mission of Burma in 1983. For the studio version, you'll have to find a CD or a download, but here's a good-quality recent live version:

This is one of MOB's more accessible tunes, replete with rough-hewn three-part harmonies, an urgent driving rhythm and some great angry lyrics. It's very catchy and yet retains its edge.

The earliest cover version I can find is by pop-grunge types Soul Asylum, from 1989. The quality of this recording is poor, so it's not the best listen. They've left the song virtually unchanged, although the tempo is slower and the sound appears less abrasive. They've kept the multipart vocals.

British band Catherine Wheel recorded their version in 1992. It isn't vastly different to the original, although, like Soul Asylum, they have slowed the tempo, to begin with at least. The bassline remains very similar, but the guitar sound is brighter somehow. The vocals are different, with less harmonising and a clearer delivery.

Moby's 1996 cover is probably the best-known version of the song. It comes from his rock/metal album Animal Rights. His interpretation is cleaner and more minimal than the original, but it is still very true to MOB, down to the vocal stylings.

Graham Coxon has covered the song live, despite never making a recording of it, to my knowledge. His distinctive vocals bring something different to the song. His arrangement is quite simple, but keeps a similar set of guitar effects to the original. This is most up-tempo version.

Of all of the covers, Graham Coxon's is probably my favourite, as he has put his own stamp on it more than the others. That's When I Reach For My Revolver obviously inspires a lot of respect from other musicians, as none has felt the need to adjust the original very much, even when their own style is quite different.

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