Thursday, February 15, 2007

They're Still Racing Out at The Trestles

(Update: Jinx! Andrea totally blogged about The Cates today also. This will give people more reason to believe in the HWTS mafia. I swear it was innocent and we were not commiserating about our intentions. Her post is better than mine so go read it.)

I’ve been thinking about cover songs lately. Normally, if a band plays a cover I don’t get all that excited about it. That is unless they are able to do something special with it. I am not talking about Hairball or Boogie Wonderland type bands here. I mean bands that have a little shame about their covers. These thoughts have been buzzing around the back of my brain for a few weeks now, but last weekend something happened that made the buzzing consume my brain. I’ll get to that in a second though. The Cates - photo by David de Young

My house is on the market and I packed up most of my CDs and put them in storage. So most of my music (except for about 30 CDs that I just couldn’t stand to put away) are in boxes in the dark corner of a storage unit in North Minneapolis. My main repository for music is now my little green iPod.

Last weekend I found The Cates for the first time. Brilliant, aching vocals by these two women whose melancholy songs are tinged with just enough optimism beneath the surface to not feel suffocating, but are still sad enough to go perfect with a dim room and a bottle of wine. They played an amazing version of Cyndi Lauper’s “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun.”

When the song started I thought, “Oh. This is a funny little song, this might be good.” But they weren’t going for a funny little song vibe, they sang that ‘80s pop song with as much soul as I think Lauper could ever imagine. It was then that it hit me what makes a great cover song. The lack of irony.

I’m sure lots of bands have covered “Girls…” or “Every Rose Has Its Thorn” or something along those lines with a tongue-in-cheek kind of hubris. A cue to the audience not to take this too seriously. But the best cover songs are the ones that say, “Listen fucker. I didn’t write this song, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t come from my gut. I am dead serious about this and you are going to feel it!”

I was looking through my iPod to find some kick ass cover songs, but I couldn’t find that many that had the qualities that made me love The Cates so much.

I am sure there are much more out there, but the only one I really found was Bruce Springsteen’s “Darkness on the Edge of Town,” covered by The Winter Blanket.

I am on a mission to find some more. And I will be checking out The Cates again. For sure.

(You can listen to Girls Just Wanna Have Fun on The Cates myspace page.)