13 songs, covered darkly

A recent blog post from Mil about Brisbane band The Horse Darkly led to this sweet cover of Suzanne Vega’s Luka, which got me thinking about other neat cover songs. I’ve got a bit of a love-hate relationship with these critters: sometimes they can make you look at a song in a totally different light, sometimes they seem to pay true homage, and other times they just suck.

Here are 13 darkly tinged standouts:

Nine Inch Nails, Dead Souls (Joy Division): if you’re gonna cover JD, you’ve gotta do it with soul, and Trent Reznor amps it up in this whiz cover from The Crow soundtrack.

And the original! (amazing, isn’t it, how majesty can surpass such poor vision and sound…)

Concrete Blonde, Everybody Knows (Leonard Cohen): a gorgeous song gains from Johnette Napolitano’s smoky voice and Jim Mankey’s guitar. See also the band’s cover of Bob Dylan’s Twist of Faith. Johnette offers two superb covers (of The Scientist and All Tomorrow’s Parties) on her solo album, Scarred.

Inkubus Sukkubus, Paint It Black (Rolling Stones): witchy Gothic synth-rock puts a new shade on the Stones’ ode to depression.

The Shroud, Alice (Sisters of Mercy): Goth band covers Goth band, with strings!

Marilyn Manson, Sweet Dreams (Eurythmics): take a great pop song and cast it darkly — it’s a tactic that works well for Manson, who has also done the business on Tainted Love.

Type O Negative, Summer Breeze (Seals and Crofts): another Gothic take on an otherwise breezy little ditty.

Johnny Cash, Hurt (Nine Inch Nails): Cash puts his own crown of shit on the NIN tune. He repeats the dose on Depeche Mode’s Personal Jesus.

Rammstein, Stripped (Depeche Mode): Want to put a Germanic twist on the DM classic? Just add drums and guitars. Loud ones.

Jeff Martin, back in Australia

Cool news to come from the Armada gig at the East Brunswick Club last night: Jeff Martin, Canadian songwriter of note, previously of Ireland, has landed in Australia as a full-time resident. Although the travelling troubadour said he didn’t know just how much time he’d get to spend here.

The gig itself, being recorded, was damn fine, although the amount of inane crowd chatter during and between songs could be a headache for the final cut.

Martin, with Wayne Sheehy on percussion and Jay Cortez on bass (and other bits ‘n’ bobs, such as mandolin and harmonica), was in fine fettle for the two-hour performance in a hot, cramped venue offering superb sound. Seated mid-stage throughout in black shirt and jeans, he paraded a host of instruments during the night, including a hurdy gurdy, esraj, oud (won in a Cairo poker game) and theremin, as well as mainstay Gibson guitars, a classic Les Paul and an Australian-made 12-string.

The set list, similar to last year’s tour with familiar banter, ranged from Tea Party favourites such as Sister Awake and The Bazaar, to his signature solo tune, The Kingdom (album review here), again dedicated to Victoria’s Black Saturday bushfires, and Armada tunes. He again offered crafty blends of NIN’s Hurt and Joy Division’s Love Will Tear Us Apart, and Led Zeppelin’s Whole Lotta Love.

One highlight was Coming Home, given extra gusto by his announcement of a move to Oz, and the closing encore song, Black Snake Blues, with Cortez on slide guitar.

In Sheehy and Cortez, Martin has found ideal complements, and, combined with the regularity of his touring, must bode well for the Armada’s future. Or so I hope.

Dr Martin is in

One man and a guitar. It’s too much power, really. At least, it is when the man is Jeff Martin.

His leonine presence filled the boudoir-style stage of the intimate, first-floor Troubadour tonight. Just him, a couple of acoustic guitars, effects pedals, stomp box. And that voice…

He was feeling the music tonight, I thought. He was in the zone, touched by an encounter with unexpected love on a previous visit, still haunted perhaps by his gigs down in Victoria where the pain and loss of the bushfires have clearly affected him. He dedicated The Kingdom to the fire victims, and paid respect to the Queensland flood victims, too, with the eco-friendly Line in the Sand.

The medleys came plentifully, my favourite the mix of Requiem and Nine Inch Nails’ Hurt — poignant, given we heard Trent Reznor close his emotive headlining gig at Soundwave with that song only on Saturday, a probable farewell, as it turns out. Schade.

With Martin, there’s blues and world music and a touch of pop and good old rock. It’s head-nodding, hand-clapping, joyful, cathartic stuff, drawing on Tea Party material (opener The Bazaar, Save Me, Sister Awake et al) as well as his solo and now Armada work, with crafty dollops of covers thrown in. And some of it resonates, all the way to the heart.

The inclusion of a line from Joy Division’s Love Will Tear Us Apart was particularly affecting. There were others, but that’s between the doctor and me.

Martin returns with his Armada compatriots in May. We saw them at the end of last year and were impressed. But tonight, now that was special, just we happy few and the man and his guitar, and the chords he played.