The cover song is a time honored tradition that probably dates back to the first couple of cavemen banging out a crazy beat on a log. Anyone who’s ever fretted a chord or thumped a drum has probably burned with the desire to emulate and pay tribute to their musical forefathers, casting themselves into the vicarious shoes of their heroes. If you’re reading this, there’s a pretty good chance that bands like Napalm Death, Discordance Axis and Phobia probably played a pretty significant role in your musical development. However, I don’t need hear yet another cover of the “The Kill.” There’s very little chance you’re going to top the original.
Maybe it's time for all of us to widen our horizons. Thinking about the ubiquity of covering certain bands led me to brainstorm a wish list of songs outside the grind realm that I’d absolutely love to hear get blastbeaten and the band I think is the best candidate for the job.
Here are my top 10 dream parings:
Return to the Eve
Sixties folker Barry McGuire’s “Eve of Destruction” is a song that seems to cycle in and out of relevance depending on how many stupid, interminable wars the United States seems to have started for itself at any given time. In an era of terrorism, Stuxnet and screwballs babbling about apocalyptic Mayan prophecies, “Eve of Destruction” is a song whose time has probably come around again. I can’t understand how a whole slew of Carcass clones haven’t lined up for the honor of grinding a pop song that drops the word “coagulating.”
Dream band: Drugs of Faith’s grind ‘n’ roll rumble would do a number on this tune. Tell me you can’t hear Richard Johnson’s distinctive, intelligible snarl standing in for McGuire’s gravelly gargle. The song’s social conscience would also seem to put it squarely in Johnson’s wheelhouse, giving him another platform to declaim against a society that’s drifting away from collective responsibility and basic human compassion.
I’ve been saying for years now that some grind band really needs to rip into the Crucifucks’ “Earth by Invitation Only.” It’s an awesomely tight little tune that’s already primed for the blastbeat treatment and its social, environmental, feminist and economic themes make a lyrical Rosetta stone of leftwing grind’s most common topics of discourse.
Dream band: The Crucifucks were never afraid to let their freak flag fly (just listen to Corbin Dart’s vocals, ferfuckssake), so I’d love to see grindcore whackos Noisear put their distinctive spin on the song. Dorian Rainwater’s twisty riffing could really do a wonder on the song’s basic framework while Bryan Fajardo would push it to even more blistering tempos.
Season of the Witch
If the world were a just place, Seattle’s proto-garage rockers the Sonics would have bigger than the Beatles (and by the transitive property, therefore bigger than Jesus). But alas and alack, only a select few were ready to embrace their muscular take on bruising rock with a demented sense of humor. But a decade letter its seed found fertile soil in snotty punk. The fat bottom end and vicious humor of “The Witch” typified the band’s M.O. and probably kicks the ass of just about any modern punk band you can name.
Dream band: Pig Destroyer have not been shy about stepping out of their grind comfort zone to get their rock on, turning in prior covers of the Stooges, Helmet and the Dwarves. So I would love to get their take on this proto-punk classic. “The Witch’s” jaundiced take on the game of the sexes would also take on an absolutely fascinating edge being spewed from J.R. Hayes’ screamhole.
Better known as the M*A*S*H theme song, “Suicide is Painless” is a tune whose lyrics have always impressed me. Juxtaposed with Robert Altman’s war is hell absurdity, the song is a plea for that final peace amidst a world gone incomprehensibly mad. Having it play over the scene of Walter “the Painless Pole” Waldowski’s suicide scene was yet another masterstroke. At that moment, suicide was indeed, Painless.
Dream band: Taking such a melancholic elegy and running it through the icy paranoia chambers of Gigantic Brain would be a moment of musical revelation. The sorta grind/electric band has not been shy about losing the blastbeats in the name of atmosphere and the recently reunited duo would just destroy that song.
Kiss the Sky
Way back in the Pleistocene (aka the ‘80s), the Violent Femmes pretty much had a lock on the awkward, misunderstood nice guy who struggles to make himself understood in a fucked up world type of music. Songs about spanking it, unrequited lust and hormonal anxiety still resonate long after I’ve (mercifully) left my confused teen years far behind. One of my favorites from them is “Kiss Off,” an ode to clandestine self-medication that strikes the appropriately defiant/guilty tone that makes it ring true.
Dream band: Given its pharmacological underpinnings, I would drop this one in Agoraphobic Nosebleed’s lap. Their recent pivot to a drum machine-driven breed of crossover punk would let them put a fantastic gloss on the song and their round robin mic-passing approach would also give the song additional depth as each vocalist puts his or her stamp on the various lines.
Go Ask Alice
Rudimentary Peni penned a punk fireball on 1983 masterwork Death Church in the form of “Alice Crucifies the Paedophiles.” I absolutely adore this song. It’s probably my favorite punk song from definitely my favorite punk band. It perfectly encapsulates everything that made Rudimentary Peni awesome: psychological instability, jarring imagery and a subversive political edge that put their peers’ empty political sloganeering to shame.
Dream band: For pure fucking hostility, it’s hard to see anybody who could out-savage thedowngoing. The nightmarish Australian duo would bring the kind of aural violence the tune really thrives on. Nobody would smash, crash through the song they way they would.
Popular rock radio seems to have flipped its collective lid for Pink Floyd’s “Another Brick in the Wall Part 2,” but that song has always felt trite and kinda empty to me. Stirring up people against the stultifying boredom and conformity of school is a pretty tired exercise. Everybody hates school. It’s just one of those necessary evils we all need to survive. If were to pick a chapter from The Wall’s signature song, I’d go with “Another Brick in the Wall Part 1.” The themes of loss and an absent, idealized parental figure ring really honest and profound with him, and that’s what gives the song its strength.
Dream band: This is a song I could really see Sayyadina tearing up. The Swedish band is at their best when they side step the usual political and social moralizing and deliver something more personal and heartfelt. This is the kind of emotionally charged song that could be turned into a scream of cathartic rage in the hands of the right quartet and Sayyadina would seem to have the chops to deliver.
Top 40 Hits
X were an odd duck even by early punk standards: a decidedly throwback collection of backwards looking hillbilly hellions who punked with the best and shared stages with Black Flag and the Misfits. Long before Social Distortion hit up the same formula, X were blending chicken pickin’ with punk while barreling out songs like the anti-rape feminist diatribe “Johnny Hit and Run Pauline.” That the song kicks ass after all of that is just a bonus.
Dream band: For painfully obvious reasons, somebody needs to turn Rape Revenge on to covering this one. It was custom penned for a queer-positive collection of pro-feminist power violence monsters to just sink their teeth into. That’s what we call synergy, boys and girls.
Down to the Wire
For years a friend and I have talked about our dream zombie film. I’d cut the opening credits to Wire's awesome “Reuters,” a song that’s always had a sense of implacable dread for me. It’s an exhausted, almost apathetic litany of all the ways the world has fallen apart around us, beaten down by a sense of futility in the face of relentless onslaught. The end is nigh and nobody can even summon up the energy to care.
Dream band: I would be fascinated to hear this song reinterpreted through the ears of Antigama. The Poles are no strangers to apocalypse on a global scale given their science fiction proclivities. The icy detachment of their freakazoid riffing could play off the downbeat lyrics’ gloom in a truly striking and intriguing way if handled properly.
The Ballad of Tailgunner Joe
Brutal Truth already took the Minutemen for a spin with a take on “Bob Dylan Wrote Propaganda Songs” for Evolution Through Revolution, but it’s the earlier, punchier “Joe McCarthy’s Ghost” with its driving rhythm and howling repetition, that I always thought would be best paired with blastbeats. As American politics grinds itself to a dysfunctional halt thanks to partisan bickering and intractable gridlock, a song that hearkens back to the dark days of McCarthy’s ideological witch hunts some particularly pertinent.
Dream band: This is a song that calls for a deft bass hand and a sharp political vision. Nobody fills that bill better than Kill the Client. Led by Champ Morgan’s libertarian-leaning, pox-on-both-your-houses outlook and Jody Roberts' (who apparently has left the band?) solid bass footing, Texas’ finest would be able to add a frisson to the song that would scald every political hypocrite on the continent regardless of ideological orientation.