AVClub Undercover Season 6 has been fantastic
Not that Undercover isn’t awesome every year but I’ve found myself really digging several cover versions this season. Here’s They Might Be Giants rocking the shit out of Destiny’s Child’s “Bills, Bills, Bills”:
The Punch Brothers proving that great riffs and changes translate to acoustic instrumentation as they do The Strokes’ “Reptilia”:
Along those same lines Bela Fleck and Abigail Washburn do Europe’s “Final Countdown” on banjos. I’m not a fan of the song choice (it’s one of those that seems like an overtly kitsch choice). So maybe it’s appropriate that Bela and Abigail take it in this direction rather than make it into an over-the-top rocker.
“Over-the-top rocking” is what Philly Boy Roy and Fake Limbs bring to Styx’s “Renegade” — “The real Chicago blues” as Roy describes it. It’s just best that I don’t say any more about this.
But I saved my favorites for last. Leighton Meester (I don’t care what you say she was great in Country Strong) does a great, solid job with the Cardigans’ “Lovefool” (another song choice I think is too gimicky, but then maybe my liking of Meester’s version is gimmicky). I mean, part of the greatness of Undercover is that they include songs like “Lovefool” (one of those “hits” that was overplayed and not a great representation of the band) which could fail spectacularly if a band tried to joke it up but really works when someone like Meester performs it like a real trouper. Much like Country Strong.
But it was the Screaming Females version of Taylor Swift’s “Shake it Off” that blew my mind open.
This is a terrible song (it’s hard even to call it a song and not a “jingle”) but what Screaming Females do to it (come on, what Marissa P does to it) totally shattered my expectations. They took it seriously but also made it their own. And that guitar solo! What a twist!
For me, this one performance justifies the existence of Undercover: it shows a band seriously adding their sound to a song that could have turned into a bad joke. Also, I hadn’t heard Screaming Females before (I’m ashamed to say) and now I’m a fan (more on that later).