You can’t improve on perfection… so please don’t try

Why, Ben Gibbard, why?

Why would you even attempt to cover Teenage Fanclub’s “The Concept”? It’s a heaping helping of pure pop perfection, from their brilliant 1991 album Bandwagonesque. That album was so good that Spin magazine named it album of the year, which means it beat out an obscure album called Nevermind by some trio called Nirvana. (You can – and should – listen to the entire album here.)

“The Concept” is the lead track from that album, and just one of several amazing tunes on the release.

Teenage Fanclub was (and is – they put out an album last year and still tour) the rightful heir to the Big Star crown, and like Big Star they don’t get the credit they deserve. But being underappreciated just comes with the territory when you’re a Scottish band (looking your way, Frightened Rabbit, CHVRCHES, We Were Promised Jetpacks and the inappropriately named Texas).

And now, Mr. Gibbard, you have the temerity to cover the entire album? Don’t get me wrong, I know your intentions are pure.

In a press release, Gibbard explained why he chose the particular record: “Bandwagonesque is my favorite record by my favorite band of all time.” He continued, “It came along at a pivotal time in my musical life and I’ve loved it for over 25 years. It’s been such a blast taking these songs apart to see how they work and then putting them back together again.”  (Source: Pitchfork article)

I like your band Death Cab for Cutie, and even your side project The Postal Service.  But if you can’t bring something new to the cover song, or make it completely your own, then don’t do it. And you’ve taken a great song and turned it into a bit of a dirge. Which is weird, because when Iron & Wine slowed down your Postal Service song “Such Great Heights” it worked great.

But for your treatment of “The Concept”? Not so much.

However, there is a silver lining, BG. Maybe by covering the entire album, you’ll induct a few members of this generation into the Teenage Fanclub fanclub (no, I didn’t stutter).

That’s a brilliant idea! And if the band is on board, then I am too.

Teenage Fanclub’s Norman Blake is also happy with the result: “I was thrilled and extremely flattered when I heard that Ben Gibbard had decided to cover Bandwagonesque in its entirety. Needless to say that the reimagining of the album by this very talented fella is both inventive and deftly executed. Thanks Ben.”

 

 

 

 

2 thoughts on “You can’t improve on perfection… so please don’t try

  1. The topic of “cover albums” is a tricky one.

    Ryan Adams made Taylor Swift’s ‘1989’ into his own masterpiece (my opinion, natch).
    As for Gibbard’s cover album of Teenage Fanclub, I’ll check it out.

    Have to disagree with you on Iron & Wine, though. I’ll admit they’re not in my wheelhouse at all, and was bored to tears when they played MidPoint ’15.

    Different strokes, yadda yadda yadda.

    Always a good read with the blog, though.

    • You’re right, Sledge, cover albums/cover songs can be polarizing. Agree with you on Ryan Adams… but is that partially because we both like Ryan Adams and don’t have any true love for T-Swift (unless you’re a closet fan)? I’m guessing that how much you like the original will influence whether or not you enjoy the cover song.

      Thanks for reading. I’ll be tuned in for your final WNKU show tomorrow. Sad day.

Leave a Reply