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Monkey Do

Can't bands record compelling original music?

By Todd Inoue

MAYBE IT'S all those American Idol medleys, but I am officially sick of the cover song. It's time to place a moratorium on the obvious crossover scheme. Band: "We can't get airplay because all our original songs suck." Drummer slaps forehead. "I know! Let's record a (1) punk, (2) pop, (3) indie, (4) MOR, (5) metal version of "Hot in Herre!'" High fives and belly bumps all around.

It was cool when bands actually did something interesting with the originals--Alien Ant Farm's "Smooth Criminal" or the Vines' "Ms. Jackson," for instance. But the number of wick-wack hacks recording old and not-so-old songs just for kitsch or commercial value is getting absolutely ridiculous. And now it's time to name names.

Avril Lavigne--"Basket Case" (Green Day)
"Do you have the time to listen to me whine?" Hell no! Recently, this was the No. 1-selling song on iTunes. Why people would commit a couple hundred kilobytes is beyond explanation; however, the eternal optimist in me says this could have been worse: Avril covers Sleater-Kinney or Fugazi.

The Ataris--"Boys of Summer" (Don Henley)
Who is the biggest offender: the band or the program director who greenlighted this song? I damn near spat toothpaste foam at my bathroom mirror when I first heard this. Either it's a case of extreme irony or extreme desperation. Come on guys, you can live on Top Ramen for a couple more months. Why fast-track your success with a song that will follow you to your grave? And why would you want to give Don Henley more money?

Counting Crows--"Big Yellow Taxi" (Joni Mitchell)
Absolutely massacres Joni Mitchell and sells the beautiful anti-establishment anthem to Gap shoppers. Adam Duritz recorded protest Muzak so incredibly inoffensive that Joni should smash her guitar over the dreadlocked dickwad's head.

Uncle Kracker--"Drift Away" (Dobie Gray)
Dobie Gray called; he wants his dignity back. Uncle Kracker's new album is appropriately called No Stranger to Shame, and these douche bags totally rip the soul and feeling away from Gray's '70s R&B joint. Instead of Gray's blasting Metallica at Baath Party POWs, put this weapon of mass destruction on repeat. We'd be out of Iraq six months ago.

Sugar Ray--"Is She Really Going Out With Him?" (Joe Jackson)
The fact that this song is getting more airplay than anything on the new Sugar Ray CD, In the Pursuit of Leisure, shows you how desperate the label is to save the album from tanking. "Teens don't like 'em anymore? Let's go after dumb 30-to-40-year-olds who remember Joe Jackson!"

Dixie Chicks--"Landslide" (Fleetwood Mac)
The Chicks' vocal melodies are actually kind of pretty compared to Stevie's nasal whine. But former Smashing Pumpkin Billy Corgan recorded it a couple years ago--and better, Isn't that a no-no, recording a cover before the original cover's expiration date? Did they not check the packaging?

Sixpence None the Richer--multiple offensives
The Christian band crucified the already excellent La's song "There She Goes" and then took a dump on Crowded House's "Don't Dream It's Over." Face it: If it didn't do covers, nobody would know who it was.

T.A.T.U.--"How Soon Is Now" (The Smiths)
Poorly executed and jumps on the Frente "Bizarre Love Triangle" bandwagon nine years too late. Guess information moves slow in Russia. Back to the lab.

Nickelback, Featuring Kid Rock--"Saturday Night's Alright (for Fighting)" (Elton John)
A big dumb band playing a big dumb version of a big dumb Elton John song for a big dumb sequel, Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle.

Johnny Cash--"Hurt" (Nine Inch Nails)
I don't hate all covers. This rules. End of story.

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From the July 31-August 6, 2003 issue of Metro, Silicon Valley's Weekly Newspaper.

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