Labor Day, that long weekend that serves as a harbinger of the end of summer. It’s your last chance to have a tall boy on your front porch at 2 p.m., eat your weight in processed meat, and cannonball into the neighbor’s pool before the weather gets chilling (and your neighbors drain the pool for the fall and/or report you to the local Neighborhood Watch).
To help you celebrate, the New Noise staff have put together a playlist of punk, hardcore, and metal bands covering their idols, each other, and whoever they thought they needed to land a cell phone ad spot back in 2005. It’s the perfect accompaniment to your weekend lounging, drinking, or back yard barbecuing. For some extra food for thought, myself and the rest of the staff have written a little bit about the highlights (and unfortunate omissions) from the playlist below.
How ever you decide to celebrate your Labor Day, just make sure you are doing it safely. There is still a pandemic on, and getting yourself or others sick will definitely be a downer this weekend. Mask up; observe social distancing recommendations; gather outdoors, and make sure to have plenty of hand sanitizer to go around. For further guidance, please see the CDC’s recommendations for personal and social activities here.
1. Screaming Females – “Shake It Off” (Taylor Swift Cover)
I wanted to include this one at the beginning to start things out right. First off, Screaming Females are one of the best punk bands in the business at the moment. The New Jersey trio have an utterly unique, immediately identifiable and multi-fascinated sound that reminds me of the intense creativity exhibited by some of those early SST bands. They’ve made their bread while maintaining an untrammeled DIY ethic which makes me love them that much more.
Screaming Females’s cover of “Shake It Off” originated as part of the AV Club Undercover series, but now lives on their Singles Too comp. Why this cover needs to be at the top of the list is because of how completely the band owns it. Vocalist and guitarist Marissa Paternoster demos her range and trademark thrill before ripping off a blazing solo in the bridge, while the impeccable rhythm section of drummer Jarrett Dougherty and bass man King Mike keep things tight and propulsive on the back end.
They really make the song their own, and the transformation of a pop-radio confection to an underground anthem of defiance, I think mirrors the way people listen to and metabolize music generally. When you’re young, you can’t help but be effected by the art you encounter. It becomes a part of you, shapes your perception of the world. And the songs that make up the soundtrack of these formative years are incredibly personal and help to craft the narrative of your life.
For many music fans, the process of adding to that soundtrack becomes a lifelong project. To the extent that artists are also music lovers, the covers that emerge during live sets or that creep up in discographies are invitations to sample the soundtracks of those artists’ lives, something get to know what music they’ve taken as their own to help them make sense of the world.
There is an incredible leveling effect that covers have in this respect, one that brings the stage down to the level of the audience. That bridges the gap between artist and audience in an important way. Now, I don’t think Screaming Females are exactly disciples of Taylor Swift, but their cover of “Shake It Off” has all of the transformative qualities that you would expect from a really great cover. It feels like their song and is exemplary of a knowing and shared experience between musician and listener that is worth savoring during your downtime this weekend.
2. Motörhead – “Heroes” (David Bowie Cover)
Hero is a maddeningly overused phrase in America. Especially in the era of COVID, it seems to be applied liberally to anyone whose death society has deemed an acceptable cost of continuing with business as usual. Regardless, I think it’s important to include Motörhead’s cover of David Bowie’s “Heroes” on this list because it brings the term back to its most essential meaning: someone who does what no one else can do.
In the context of the song, the titular “hero” is someone who is loyal and loving and there for you when no one else will be. The hero of the song is someone who chooses to stand by you when you need them most. At a time when we are increasingly atomized socially and politically, and physically distant from each other by necessity due to a plague, it’s important to have reminders of how much we need each other. What a gift loyalty is as a human trait. This is a prompt to step outside of ourselves and lend a hand to others in their struggles.
This cover of “Heroes” was one of the last things that Lemmy Kilmister recorded with his band before passing in 2015, and it appears on Motörhead’s final studio album, Black Magic. Listening to the song today, I think this is how that big-hearted barbarian would want to be remembered. as someone who cared deeply for others and who would always be there for you as long as he had a heart beating in his big-hairy chest.
3. Circle Jerks – “Fortunate Son” (Credence Clear Water Revival Cover)
I listen to Circle Jerk’s version of “Fortunate Son” and the Minutemen’s “This Ain’t No Picnic” every Labor Day, which means that I make a point to listening to them both at least two days out of the year, the first Monday in September and May 1. That’s right, May 1, May Day. The real Labor Day. Ike tried to change it to Loyalty Day back in the ’50s as an attack on the American labor movement, but it’s going to take more than an act of congress to stop people from recognizing the need to fight for their rights and dignity.
“Fortunate Son” was originally written by Creedence Clearwater Revival in opposition to the Vietnam War, highlighted the way that the children of the rich and connected could avoid serving in America’s army to fight and die for the county’s imperial ambitions abroad. The expression of anger from the perspective of someone who lives under the thumb of big business and corrupt politicians is palpable in the original and is given a thoroughly punk rock twist on the Jerk’s version, which originally appeared on their 1987 LP IV. As awesome as the song, no line really hits harder than the first:
Some folks are born, made to wave the flag
Their red, white and blue
And when the band plays “Hail to the Chief”
They point the cannon at you
It’s a good reminder that if you weren’t born to the top of the heap, you’re cannon fodder.
4. Bully – “About a Girl” (Nirvana Cover)
Nirvana’s “About a Girl” off of their 1989, debut LP Bleach is one of those classic rock ‘n’ roll sneak-attacks. A killer jam that tells a gritty story of desperation and heart ache the song’s lyrics are sung from the perspective of an incredibly lonely man who has fallen in love with a prostitute whom he confesses all of his secrets to, and who politely listens to him night after night out of a mix of genuine sympathy and professional obligation.
Nashville’s Bully covered the song back in May and packaged it with a rendition of Orville Peck’s “Turn to Hate” as a vinyl single (all of which are sadely sold out). Hearing Bully’s Alicia Bognanno sing this song definitely adds another dimension to its lyrics, heightening the reality of the fleeting moments we get of the woman’s side of the story. It helps you better interpret her perspective on things and the mix of fear and anxiety she must experience watching someone slowly unravel before her, wondering each time they meet about what will happen when he realizes that his affection will never be returned in full.
Best case scenario he runs out of money and stops visiting her. That’s how I like to imagine things panning out, at least. Actually, how I envision things panning out is that she goes back to grad school and he signs up for Match.com. The world is a sad and lonely place. I like to dole out Happy Endings where I can. Bully’s cover of “Another Girl” is a rock-solid fuzz bomb, heavier and more confidently executed than the original, and which gives new life to the fascinating and disturbing drama at the song’s center.
5. Faith No More – “War Pigs” (Black Sabbath Cover)
Faith No More’s cover of Black Sabbath’s “War Pigs” originally appeared on their 1989 album The Real Thing. The album that this cover appears on was the first with Mike Patton as lead singer, following the departure of Chuck Mosley. There really isn’t a story here other than the fact that Faith No More’s funkier and sprier version of the song really kicks ass and helps show off the band’s flashy, over-the-top style in an entertaining way.
You can really see how well the different personalities in the band jell during the live set included above. They just look like they’re having an absolute blast out there in front of a revved-up crowd in Brixton! A lot is weighing on our minds these days and sometimes it just feels good to forget your worries and watch a sweaty, shirtless man rap about demons and bad men doing sinister stuff for seven minutes straight. God bless Faith No More, and god bless the workers of the world. Have a great weekend everyone!
6. IDLES – “Reptilia” (The Strokes Cover)
The British rock/post-punk band IDLES released their debut album, Brutalism, in 2017, and has skyrocketed ever since. The band took a trip across the pond to perform at the legendary Abbey Road Studios in London, England.
They covered a handful of songs from bands, and one of them happened to be The Strokes’ lead single “Reptilia,” featured in ‘Room on Fire’ LP, released in 2003. IDLES re-create the track to their liking by adding dark-comedic elements, snarky guitar riffs, and not to mention, Joe Talbot’s distinct voice that adds icing to the cake.
7. FEVER 333 x Nova Twins – MASH UP [Live From London]
The energetic and bold trio FEVER 333, similar to the likes of Rage Against The Machine, focus their music on sharing the message of justice and social change. The band released two new singles during Black Lives Matter Movement, “Supremacy,” and “Presence Is Strength,” to lift the voices of the Black people.
Rewind to last year in London, FEVER 333 and Nova Twins performed one hell of a mash-up that combines classic ‘90s hits, including Tupac – California Love, Green Day – Brainstew, Lil Nas X—Old Town Road, and Dr Dre & Eminem – Forgot About Dre. You can’t beat a mash-up like this.
8. Devil You Know – “Eye of The Tiger”
Billboard’s top-charting single of the ’80s, “Eye of The Tiger” by Survivor, was one of the most influential releases during the decade and still resonates with fans and musicians worldwide.
A few years back, metal-rock band Devil You Know, including members of Howard Jones (ex-Killswitch Engage), Francesco Artusato from All Shall Perish, and John Sankey (from Devolved), released their electric, arena-rock version of the song. You’ll hear some good ‘ol riffs and roaring vocals that are apparent in their original releases.
9. Bad Religion – “Let It Slide” (Tony Sly Cover)
Tony Sly, frontman for No Use For A Name, had a passion for music and songwriting unlike any other. His energy shaped the punk scene, influencing bands and members in the community. In 1990, No Use For A Name released their debut album, Incognito, which was produced by Brett Gurewitz of Bad Religion/Epitaph Records, and released by Bay Area record label New Red Archives.
The Daily Grind was the band’s third album and debut release through Fat Wreck Chords in 1993. Despite the band’s last release in ’80, Sly continued his solo career as a musician. Sly’s last album release was Sad Bear, released in 2011. Sly passed away in 2012, but his memory and legacy continue to live on amongst all musicians, and in his honor, bands joined together a year later to release a tribute album. Bad Religion share their rendition of “Let It Side.” The track was featured on the More Bettweness! LP, originally released in 1999.
10. Billie Joe Armstrong of Green Day – “I Think We’re Alone Now”
Many music fans might picture a teenage girl singing to her catchy chorus for “I Think We’re Alone Now.” But little do they know, the track was initially released in 1967 by recording artists Tommy James and the Shondells.
Even though the single reached the chats, it wasn’t universally recognized until Tiffany Darwish covered the track in 1987. A few decades later, Bille Joe Armstrong of Green Day shares his spin on the classic. You can say it’s just as good or even better than the original, but that’s up for debate…
Check out the full NEW NOISE REWIND: BANDS COVER BANDS Playlist on Spotify below: