11/7/13

Post Punk And Gender

Since the news of Lou Reed's passing on Sunday Oct. 27 I've been listening quite a lot to The Velvet Underground and Lou Reed's solo material. The greatest and most famous record by The Velvet Underground is the debut The Velvet Underground & Nico (1967). While The Velvet Underground were in many ways forerunners to punk and post punk and the album does have quite a few tracks that delve into drones and noise, this particular track is a bit more "pop". Pop in a Phil Spector wall of sound sense. Nico sings lead on the track and adds her dreamily European/teutonic persona:


Tomorrow night we're seeing Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds live here in Copenhagen which means I've also been listening to their back catalogue this week. One track that stood out was from the covers album Kicking Against The Pricks (1986) and it's their cover of the aforementioned 'All Tomorrow's Parties'. Nick Cave and the band invert the angle of the song and make it a masculine choir of Ennio Morricone-esque shouts with a driving rock'n'roll beat underneath. Male singers performing songs usually associated with female singers and vice versa is an easy trick but nevertheless it works. A great contrast to the original version:


This is what I would call a cover in all the right ways. It points to a lineage back to the original version while adding something of its own.
In regards to female and male singers these two versions reminded me of a similar example where the opposite happens, namely that of Kraftwerk and Siouxie and The Banshees. Kraftwerk released their masterpiece Trans Europe Express in 1977 and one of the featured tracks is 'Spiegelsaal'/'Hall of Mirrors', recited and sung by Ralf Hütter in typically non-dramatic fashion:


Interestingly, his vocal manners point back to Nico's similarly taut delivery on The Velvet Underground & Nico and lo and behold; this song also received a post punk inflected interpretation around the same time that Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds released their covers album. Siouxie Sioux & The Banshees released their covers album Through The Looking Glass (taking its title from the Kraftwerk song) in 1987. Again, we have a cover version that adds some straight forward rock drive to the original and again we have a front figure artist backed by a band: "X & The X's". Only this time the gender roles are the opposite.


Looking forward to Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds tomorrow!

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