Noisey Vs. MetalSucks: Cover Me!
Welcome to Noisey Vs. MetalSucks, a bi-weekly column in which the staff of Noisey and the staff of MetalSucks will engage in vigorous academic debate concerning some of extreme music’s most relevant topics of the day. For this week’s edition, MetalSucks’ own Axl Rosenberg does battle with Noisey’s Jon Wiederhorn on the subject of whether or not established bands should record and/or perform covers. Read Axl’s position below, then head over to Noisey to check out Jon’s counter-argument. Enjoy!
Cover songs are like Hollywood remakes: people love to bitch that they’re a terrible idea just on principle, but it’s actually an empty argument. The same way there have now been enough good movie remakes so as to render the “remakes suck PERIOD” assertion moot (off the top of my head: The Maltese Falcon, The Thing, The Fly, Cape Fear, Insomnia, The Departed, Ocean’s Eleven, Scarface, Little Shop of Horrors, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, True Grit, War of the Worlds, The Blob, Dawn of the Dead, The Hills Have Eyes… see what I’m getting at?), there have now been enough good covers — whether they were recorded or just performed live — so as to make any declaration that NO BAND SHOULD EVER DO A COVER EVER just, well, silly. I mean yes OF COURSE some covers are going to suck, but guess what? Plenty of original songs will, too. It’s not like Metallica followed-up “Turn the Page” with some awesome new song, y’know? They followed it up “Ya flush it out, ya flush it out.” “Whiskey in the Jar” may be no great shakes, but it’s still better than “Dirty Window” (or “Unforgiven III,” for that matter). And bands like Disturbed are gonna blow goats pretty much no matter what, so who gives a crap what they do?
The secret to making a cover worthy is the same as the secret to making a film remake worthy: you need to figure out what base elements made the original interesting, but then bring your own perspective and spin on the material so it’s not just an unmotivated, rote recreation. Although this isn’t always the easiest task, plenty of artists manage to do it.
And the truth is, more of those bands are established than not. It’s when a new band gets famous for doing a cover that things get really irritating. (I’m sure the members of Limp Bizkit and Orgy are real proud that they had absolutely nothing to do with their big breakthrough songs.) But if a band that’s already established their own identity wants to have a lil’ fun and/or pay homage to their heroes? What’s wrong with that?