The worst that can happen

21:24, Dec 08 2013

The phrase/question - what's the worst that can happen? - I think I've got the definitive example, music-wise. It's when an artist you like, or previously liked, tackles the work of another artist you admire and ruins it. Painfully. Makes it hard for you to take seriously, makes you wonder what you saw in that artist's work previously. And can even leave a bad taste in your mouth with regard to the original songs - you go back to listen to them and hear the bad cover versions in your head. 

So, I better give you the example I'm thinking about - to clarify. I really like Xiu Xiu, in fact I thought last year's album, Always, was the high water mark from a prolific artist. As Xiu Xiu, Jamie Stewart is not about the accessible, not necessarily - the music is not for everyone. It's not trying to be. But in Always I found something I could really dig, beaut new snyth-based songs, it was an intense listening experience, but I think of it - still - as the best Xiu Xiu album. It wasn't just a feat of hyperbolic reviewing (that sometimes happens by the way, you get all excited about the album in the moment and then you go back to it and it's not all that. I guess the same thing happens in the other direction, you write something off and go back to it - less likely to bother, of course - and find it far more pleasurable than you remember).

So, anyway, Xiu Xiu is prolific - there'll be a new Xiu Xiu album next year but in between Stewart has released Nina - a set of Nina Simone cover tunes. Here's my review. I was so deeply disappointed by this - it's about the worst thing I've heard this year, certainly the worst thing I've heard with any (actual) expectations. After last year's album I was thinking that a set of Nina Simone covers by an artist I admire might be just the thing. But, it damn near put me off hearing anything by Nina Simone. That is until I went back to Bonobo's superb Late Night Tales comp and played a bunch of my Nina Simone records. But it was a close call.

Have you ever had that happen?

I think that's gotta be about the worst thing that can happen, music-wise, because clearly your expectations are high - artist you like covering an artist you like, what could go wrong? Well, in this case almost everything. I've tried to detail the sound of the record in my review.

But then, hey, I've checked out the brand new Flaming Lips record; the one where they cover The Stone Roses' self-titled debut LP and perhaps I shouldn't like it. But I do. I really do. I like a good bit of folly. But Xiu Xiu's creepy, ugly, sickly Nina album was not fond folly.

So do you have any examples of when an artist you like has killed another artist's songs in covering them; made you unhappy with both artists as a result?

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