[Via Ultimate Classic Rock]
Time now for another edition of Patchy’s Inappropriate Instrumentals, where I share awesome covers of great songs done on strange instruments, or things that aren’t even instruments at all!
In the last installment, I featured a couple hauntingly beautiful covers of Tool‘s Lateralus. You can find that post HERE. This time around, however, the spotlight is on The Cars.
The Cars were at the forefront of merging 70’s-style guitar-oriented rock with the synth-pop sound that would become hugely popular in the 80’s. The band’s self-titled debut album was released in 1978 and did not take long to go platinum. Allmusic even went so far as to call it a “genuine rock masterpiece.” In fact, a handful of the bands biggest hits were on it. Among them was arguably the band’s best known song, Just What I Needed. That song started its life as a demo recorded in 1977, and got its first airplay from that very demo tape by a couple of radio stations in the band’s home town of Boston. Shortly thereafter, it became one of the most requested songs on said stations. In fact, The Wolf is even featuring that song as The Cars’ “Signature Song,” as part of the 101 Signature Songs Weekend this weekend.
I’ve always been rather fond of The Cars, being first exposed to them (like with most classic rock) as a young child, when my father put on their greatest hits and cranked up the stereo. Just What I Needed is a song I’ve always felt the need to sing along to, and have even performed at karaoke. However, what I did to the song pales in comparison to what The Punch Brothers did with it.
I recently came across a series on YouTube called A.V. Undercover, run by entertainment website The A.V. Club. The premise is simple: They compile a list of 25 songs, and invite 25 bands into their small round room to record a cover of one of the songs. Once one of the songs is chosen off the list, it gets crossed off, so bands who come in later have fewer songs to choose from. It was Gwar‘s cover of Pet Shop Boys‘ West End Girls that got me into the series, though that’s a story for another time… I’m just glad I kept looking at other videos in the series.
The Punch Brothers are a group whose style has been described as “bluegrass instrumentation and spontaneity in the structures of modern classical,” whatever that means. Personally, I prefer the tag “Progressive Bluegrass.” Regardless of their style, they know how to make some lovely sounding music.
So, without further ado, behold The Punch Brothers covering Just What I Needed.
The thing that jumped out at me most about this video was the banjo player, Noam Pikelny. Now I haven’t seen a lot of people play the banjo, and have maybe held one a handful of times in my life, so I’m no expert on banjo… But being a guitarist, I can’t help but be amazed at his fingerpicking speed! Using the banjo to fill in the synth parts works beautifully thanks to his seemingly effortless playing. Toss in some lovely vocal harmonies, a delightfully tasteful violin solo in place of the guitar solo, and dueling banjos/violins at the end… and you’ve got yourself a mighty fine cover.
What do you think? And have you seen any great covers on weird instruments lately? If so, share them in the comments or send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org!