Tuesday, September 13, 2011


Song Title: "Lump"
Artist: Les Nordiques
Search Term: "Nordiques"

Perceptive readers will have realized by now that I have quite the green thumb when it comes to cultivating pet peeves. I like to delude myself that it's constructive and heartfelt when I go on and on about things that irk me, however, which is why today's entry in the Pet Peeve Parade particularly gets under my skin, because I'm irritated by things that are the opposite of constructive. Specifically, I find it odious when bands cover songs in such a sloppy, apathetic fashion that the tune is rendered not just unrecognizable but unlistenable. Generally it's the condescending attitude that bugs me: It's one thing for a cover to creatively undercut the original artist's intent by turning the song on its head--Devo's lock-limbed cover of "(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction" completely removes the swagger from the Rolling Stones' original, leaving only the dangerously overcompressed sexual frustration; the Nip Drivers' hardcore distillation of Duran Duran's "Rio" quickly rescues the heavenly chorus from the bloat surrounding it in the latter's hands--but it's something else entirely to express your disdain for a song by tossing off a "why bother?" version so annoyingly lazy that it manifests a belief that the song is beneath you. For instance, the Meat Puppets' spitefully dopey decimation of R.E.M.'s "Everybody Hurts" and Low Barlow's awful Gen-X dismissal of Schoolhouse Rock's "I'm Just a Bill" are simply childish insults in musical form; empty invective that offers nothing in the way of better or alternative ideas.

But then, even if there's no malice behind it, there's still very little point to releasing a carelessly thrown-away rendition of anything. This cover of the Presidents of the United States of America's bright 1995 single doesn't possess any exaggeratedly sarcastic or dissonant elements, but it's so inadequately performed that the fact that Les Nordiques released it is every bit as chafing as if they were mocking the song. It sounds like it was recorded as the result of a conversation that went, "Dude, remember that song 'Lump' by the Refreshments or whoever? 'She's a lump! She's a lump! I can't get her out of my head'? I'll bet you 30 of our French equivalent of dollars that we can just pick up our instruments and play the song from memory even though we haven't heard it in our French equivalent of a decade!" The guitar isn't tuned, the vocals are all but inaudible, and the halting drumming completely obliterates the crisp energy that was the source of the original's charm. It's the sort of thoroughly unredeemed and aimless undertaking that actually makes me feel like it was irresponsible to use up the electricity that this recording required. I hope Les Nordiques at least planted a tree after dumping this onto tape.

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