I've been complaining that only bland, of-the-moment pop stars (such as Miley and Ariana) seem to cover Crowded House with predictably bland results, and hoped for something a bit more interesting. Well, I'd say we got that here!

 

A.V. Undercover invites indie and alternative artists to cover a list of songs. Here is singer Jenn Wasner of the band Wye Oak (who have toured with The Decemberists and The National) covering Don't Dream It's Over. I think it's quite good. As one commenter states: "That was a masterful example of staying true to the spirit of a song, accentuating its assets all the while making it entirely your own."

 

http://www.avclub.com/video/fl...crowded-house-221004

Original Post

I'm sorry but this version also does nothing for me.  Well, they did stay true to the original and they didn't destroy the song.  I do like the guitar sound that they got on this version.  But that being said, there was nothing extraordinary about this version.  I guess that there will never be another Joe Cocker.  He had this ability to take a song to a place that you didn't expect.  Just listen to his version of "With a Little Help from My Friends" or "She Came In Through the Bathroom Window".  I think even the Beatles said "WOW" when they heard it.  I have not yet had that feeling on any cover version of a Finn song yet.

The reason I like it is they don't use some generic, karaoke-ready backing track like pretty much all the others. It's more interesting than that; they do a sort of shoegaze electro-pop thing that works well, and at least nudges the song toward some new territory. And as you say, great guitar tone for the organ solo. I greatly prefer it to the pop starlet versions, though I agree it's not quite a knockout. But definitely good in my book.

I think one of the assets of the original was the 'Maori strum' aspect of the guitar playing, something lacking in virtually all of these recent covers.  Although this is slightly more interesting than a lot of the covers we've been hearing, I personally think it sounds a bit 'musaky'. Despite the drum track they still seem to make the version sound so terribly 'middle of the road'. I'm also not too keen on the vocal delivery of a lot of these interpretations - very 'mannered'.. lot's of notes / bends.  Sigh.. maybe I'm just too hard to please  

 

OR maybe it's just such a good song no cover will ever really do it justice..

Well this gets into our personal opinions of what makes a good cover version, but I actually feel like the Maori strum should be the first thing to take out of the arrangement if you're going to cover this song...the same way I feel any cover of Eleanor Rigby should not feature strings. It doesn't have to be wildly different--in fact I dislike covers that revel in being sooo different, like "reggae Radiohead" or "swing era Depeche Mode"--but a good song can thrive in a variety of treatments, and I feel that's the right reason to cover a song. You wanna kinda rotate it so the light hits it a bit differently and people say, "Oh, I never noticed that before about this song!" Which is hard to do if you're too slavish to its signature arrangement.

 

There's definitely a throwback element to this version's canned drumbeat and backing synths, but I think Muzak is a problematic term that is overused...suffice it to say, where you hear Muzak I hear "shoegaze electro-pop." Perhaps a fine line separates the two but this works for me.

 

Anyway I do find it discouraging that so many on the forum were quick to love and defend the pop-singers-in-karaoke-bar Miley version; but just a few people stopped by here to say, "Meh."

Last edited by slowpogo

Actually, I didn't care much for Miley's version either for much of the same reasons that you have already mentioned.  I found it particularly annoying when they started talking and laughing during the middle of the song.  Well, maybe it was never intended to be a polished version of the song.  Many of the people who defended it were hoping that her version may get younger people interested in Neil's music who may have otherwise ignored it.  I am not entirely convinced that will happen, at least not on a large scale anyways.  But, Neil for some unknown reason seemed to like her version.  Maybe he was being kind because she was doing it to promote a charity and not doing it as just another song on her next CD.  But like Welsh Dan, maybe I am just hard to please when it comes to Finn or Beatles music.

Sure, I'm similarly hard to please...I hate almost all covers I've heard of Finn songs - I think the She Will/He Will tribute albums are 98% bland junk, though the intentions are honorable.

 

You bring up a good point though...I am also highly doubtful that Miley's cover will bring anything more than transitory, ineffectual attention to Crowded House. But this version, like it or not, appears in AV Club, which has become an American mainstay of indie/alternative culture, though it's not quite Pitchfork (it doesn't have the reach or the high pretentiousness). It won't get the hits that Miley got but I think it's safe to say thousands will see this version and they're the type of more cultured crowd who might actually become long-term fans, or at least become more aware in a lasting way. Based on the comments it's gotten a very positive reaction with that crowd.

Last edited by slowpogo
Originally Posted by slowpogo:

....suffice it to say, where you hear Muzak I hear "shoegaze electro-pop." 

 

Anyway I do find it discouraging that so many on the forum were quick to love and defend the pop-singers-in-karaoke-bar Miley version; but just a few people stopped by here to say, "Meh."

 

 

Okay, these two sentences made me listen.  

 

I don't typically listen to covers of Finn songs that people post here, because I don't generally enjoy covers of my favorite artists' songs by other artists I am not that familiar with.  (Although I very much love to hear covers BY my favorite artists, covering other people's songs!  Go figure.  *laughs*)

 

Having said that, "shoegaze" and "electro-pop" make my ears perk up, and that combined with your discouragement at responses here made me give this one a listen.  I can definitely hear the "shoegaze" and "electro-pop" reference, and I think it's an interesting and pleasant cover of the song.  I am not familiar with these artists, so I have no frame of reference.  I have not listened to the Miley Cyrus cover and have no desire to.

Someone tweeted a link of this to Neil and Neil retweeted it.  He didn't say anything along with his retweet but I guess it means he liked it.  But I guess from Neil's perspective, it must feel nice to know that someone liked your song enough to want to record a version of it.

Slowpogo - I take your point about the Maori strum from the original version, or the strings in Elanor Rigby. A good cover should not depend on a key aspect of the arrangement of the original, but should find it's own feet.  I always thought Eleanor Rigby would sound good on just piano..

 

But shoegaze?!  This? I always had shoegaze down as dirty sounding,  with detached performances - band members oblivious to the audience, walls of sound, guitar sounds were drenched with loads of pedals / effects, vocals and instruments melding in a dirge. Think Ride! Obviously we might be getting into semantics here, but I'd say this version was anything but shoegaze.. this version is polite, coffee table sort of alternative listening?

Originally Posted by Welsh Dan:

But shoegaze?!  This? I always had shoegaze down as dirty sounding,  with detached performances - band members oblivious to the audience, walls of sound, guitar sounds were drenched with loads of pedals / effects, vocals and instruments melding in a dirge. Think Ride! Obviously we might be getting into semantics here, but I'd say this version was anything but shoegaze.. this version is polite, coffee table sort of alternative listening?

You may be right. But I was thinking less of Ride than of My Bloody Valentine, which is often not at all "down and dirty" sounding. Some of their stuff is just a wash of pretty, ambient guitar sounds, and that is what this reminded me of, in a way. I certainly wouldn't flat out call this cover "shoegaze" but I hear its influence.

 

Yeah, this does sound a bit like Starbucks CD material. It's more and more apparent that I'm pretty much just excited to hear a CH cover that's got any "alternative" cred whatsoever. But I'd hope that would excite others a little too.

Last edited by slowpogo

Generally speaking I think it's great that a 20 year old song of his / theirs gets covered so often.  There seems to be a new version every couple of weeks.  Will such attention mean N/CH are remembered in 50 years? It's hard to say.

 

I also think it's great artists who specialise in different genres are attracted to the song.  Pop, jazz, R n B etc.  I just happen to not like, well, any of these recent covers, really.

 

But then who's to say what a 'credible' cover constitutes? I still can't decide whether I have a very broad, open minded or very narrow rather closed minded taste in music.  

 

I think unless Air, Neil Young or Foxygen cover the song I'll never be happy, but that's my problem, lol..

I just had a look at the (face grimaces, hands contort into claw shapes, screaming, spitting) Miley Cirus version on YT.  Bloody hell, it's had 8 million or so hits in about a month.  

 

I had a look at the comments, and whilst I couldn't stomach looking at much more than the first two pages, there didn't seem to be any mention of CH.  I'd probably say that this hasn't transferred into lots of view of the original version on YT, which is still under (a not to be sniffed at) 22 million.

Last edited by Welsh Dan

Not only were they not talking much about CH, they didn't even appear to be discussing the song.  So much for Miley helping Neil get new fans.

Originally Posted by Welsh Dan:

Generally speaking I think it's great that a 20 year old song of his / theirs gets covered so often.  There seems to be a new version every couple of weeks.  Will such attention mean N/CH are remembered in 50 years? It's hard to say.

It may be true that people like me should stop being so picky about who covers Crowded House, and just be thankful that people do it at all.

 

That said we all know they have dozens of great songs, many of which were notable hits (though probably not at the level of DDIO). At the very least, all of the 16 album tracks on Recurring Dream are fantastic songs worthy of covering. So here's my (perhaps) capping thought on this issue: what would make me happy? I wish other Crowded House songs were covered, at least once in a while. And I wish those covers would more often be out of the realm of low-hanging-fruit artists like Miley. And finally, I wish those covers would not simply be bland, karaoke-like parrotings of the original, but creative and enthusiastic covers which embrace and acknowledge the songwriting and production mastery of the originals, while giving the songs a new set of clothes which reflect the strengths of the covering artist.

 

I guess my complaints about covers stem from a greater unrest. I still believe that at some point in time, whether it's soon or 30 years from now, people will realize that we're right and Crowded House is an unusually special group worthy of wider recognition than they've gotten. This might be a dime-a-dozen belief held by many fanboys of many things, but I think Crowded House are worth it. I'm beyond annoyed by the "easy listening" and "MOR" labels they've been unfairly saddled with and chalk it up to a confluence of bad marketing, bad timing (against grunge and whatnot) and the pathetic temerity of certain arbiters of cool like NME. At some point in the future those things will have lost their grip and the truth will have a chance to emerge.

 

I guess I view all these cover versions as a barometer for where Crowded House stand in the cultural pantheon, and I haven't been very pleased with the readings. Here's to a brighter future.

Last edited by slowpogo

In a perfect world Slowpogo, your wish would come true.  But, we are not in a perfect world.  I agree that CH/Neil has not had the recognition they deserve.  As you mentioned, there are a whole host of reasons for that. But, I don't think Neil would want to define his career by whether he got into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.  I think he want to look at the bright side.  He is probably elated the he was able to make and distribute the "Dizzy Height" CD.  The fact is the vast majority of musicians would not be able to do that this long into their career.  If you had asked Neil back in 1980 if he would still be making music in 2015, he probably would have said "Well, we'll see".  Most musicians realize that they would be unlikely to have a career for that long.  Just like Neil's advice to Lorde, enjoy your success while it lasts because it won't.  Yes, there will come a day when even Taylor Swift will not be selling as many records as she used to.

 

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