Oh yes, the new Devotchka EP grabs me by the throat. I know I was ready to dis it earlier--before listening to it--for being a covers ep, but I've changed my mind. It's just ... well dreamy is the first word to pop into my head. The Devotchka sound is so unlike any other band that they could probably cover Journey or REO Speedwagon and make it fascinating.
But these aren't run-of-the-mill covers--one of them is of a slightly obscure, now defunct Colorado band (Baldo Rex), so they get extra credit in my opinion. I had to google the name of the songwriter because I didn't recognize it (Ted Thacker) and I had never heard the song. I got too many disparate results to sift through (there are many Ted Thackers), and I finally resorted to contacting Devotchka (I had to sign up for a MySpace account to do it--eww, I want to go take a shower now). Anywho, so there's that very interesting cover, then they cover one of their own songs from their first album--which is not technically a cover, IMO. There's also one from Siouxsie and the Banshees ("The Last Beat of My Heart"), a Frank & Nancy Sinatra cover ("Somethin' Stupid"--written by C. Carson Parks, brother of Van Dyke Parks, but erroneously listed in the liner notes as "Park C. Carson.") the Velvet Underground's Venus in Furs (yeah, so everybody covers VU ...) and a traditional mariachi tune (El Zopilote Mojado).
So it just goes to show you that, done correctly, a collection of covers can be delightful. Done poorly and it can be frightful, as in another cd I picked up on a whim a music staff--Matthew Sweet and Susanna Hoffs (as "Sid & Susie") Under the Covers, Vol 1. No one else was going to give it a listen so I figured I would because I've always liked Susanna Hoffs' voice (Matthew Sweet makes me say "meh") and I saw that they covered my favorite Dylan song ("It's All Over Now, Baby Blue") and my favorite Who song ("The Kids Are Alright"). Argh. Overproduced and bland. They claim they picked these songs because they love them so much, but their renditions are so mechanical it's hard to believe ... all I could think about while listening was that I would rather be listening to the originals ... or even to lush string interpretations by David Rose--he would execute them with more originality and imagination.