The pop culture website, Freaky Trigger, published a poll about Britpop bands yesterday, which got me thinking about the genre and its cover versions.
While there have been plenty of cover versions by Britpop bands – The Bluetones’ version of TLC’s ‘Waterfalls’ and Sleeper covering Blondie’s ‘Atomic’ spring to mind – I can’t recall many covers of Britpop songs that weren’t by Blur, Oasis and Pulp. [EDIT: one of the few was Elvis Costello’s fine cover of Sleeper’s ‘What Do I Do Now?’, which delighted Louise Wener on ITV’s ‘The Chart Show’; thanks goes to Simon Tyers for reminding me about it.]
That’s a shame, to a certain extent, because many Britpop acts – including the likes of Shed Seven, Sleeper, Space and The Bluetones – were similar in that they had a number of good singles to their name, but struggled to come up with an equally good album.
Some of their worst moments were formulaic at best but, in essence, many of their singles had strong beats and structures. Songs such as ‘Nice Guy Eddie’ and ‘Slight Return’ would make good cover versions – by the right artist, of course.
One exception to the above was Elastica’s ‘Connection’, which was covered by Collapsed Lung in 1995.
I wouldn’t lump Collapsed Lung into the Britpop genre – interestingly, their Wikipedia entry describes them as “Rap rock” and “[B]ritpop” – but I can see why people would want to.
When you think about it, the definition of Britpop is so broad, and subsequently vague, that any British guitar band from the mid-1990s could – rightly or wrongly – be described as Britptop.
But, even if this cover doesn’t work particularly well, it doesn’t suffer by comparison to Elastica.
This is because ‘Connection’ isn’t a good song to cover in the first place.
Not because it’s a bad song – far from it – but because its success was based on a limited number of unique qualities: the sample of Wire’s ‘Three Girl Rhumba’, the aggressive groans during the breaks, and the presence of Justine Frischmann.
It initially sounds very robust but, when you take away those three elements, substance really isn’t the song’s strongest point. And, because it is such a simple and distinctive song, ‘Connection’ is difficult to reinvent.
To be fair to Collapsed Lung, this cover has some depth and intrigue – even if it isn’t as fun as the original. Adding a gritty electro element is a nice twist, but it really lacks Elastica’s slickness.
The main problem lies with its muddled approach: Collapsed Lung’s attempt to change the dynamics of ‘Connection’ is conflicted by going for damage limitation and staying faithful to the original.
It never sounds sloppy or awkward, but the song’s confused state of mind lingers throughout. And, even if the structure of Elastica’s version is more throwaway, at least its signal of intent is clear from the very start.
It’s not a fantastic cover version, and it’s also one of Collapsed Lung’s lesser moments, but it remains faintly worthwhile.