Making A Cover Album: All The Cool Kids Are Doing It

There was a time when recording a cover album—with the exception of David Bowie’s Pin Ups—was taken as unequivocal proof that a band’s creative mojo was tapped. Lately, however, the opposite seems to be true. Last summer, Beck formed a musical club dedicated to covering classic albums. Then the Flaming Lips remade Dark Side of the Moon to ring in the new decade. Next, Nada Surf and (two-thirds of) Supergrass released albums crammed full of covers of their favorite songs. And now Mates of State and Cyndi Lauper have both announced that they’ll be releasing cover albums this summer.

So what’s up with the cover craze? After the jump, a detailed look at this new slew of albums. The Album: Mates of State, Crushes
The Concept: For years, Kori Gardner and Jason Hammel—the husband and wife team behind Mates of State—have given us faith that relationships can actually work. Their next album, out this summer, will be a grab bag of their favorite love songs. “We’ve been talking about doing a covers record for a long time,” they said on their website. “We’d hear a great song at 2 am while driving the straight line from one part of Texas to the next, and all we’d want to do is play that song as if we had written it.” [Brooklyn Vegan]
Song We’re Most Looking Forward To: Death Cab for Cutie’s “Technicolor Girls”

The Album: Beck’s Record Club, INXS’s Kick
The Concept: Last August, Beck had a crazy idea. He decided to get together a slew of musicians and cover The Velvet Underground and Nico in a day. He called the project Record Club, and since then, he has also covered Songs of Leonard Cohen and Skip Spence’s Oar. But the latest effort, out last month, is INXS’s Kick—which I won’t lie, is an album I still own on cassette tape. It’s recorded by St. Vincent, Os Mutantes, and The Liars. [LA Weekly]
Best Song: Duh. “I Need You Tonight.”

The Album: Nada Surf, If I Had A Hi-Fi
The Concept: After five albums, Nada Surf has proved that they can seriously craft a tune, full of lyrics that pack existential punches without feeling at all heavy-handed. So it’s interesting that their new record is a cover album, taking on favorites like Spoon and Kate Bush as well as relative unknowns like Bill Fox. Matt Caws explains, “We really just wanted to do it organically, whatever we felt like covering in the moment, rather than trying to sum up our influences or something. It’s whatever we were excited about in the months before making it.” [Brooklyn Vegan]
Best Song: Depeche Mode’s “Enjoy The Silence.”

The Album: The Bird & The Bee, Interpreting the Masters Volume 1: A Tribute to Daryl Hall and John Oates”
The Concept: Because there are few things in this world as good as “Private Eyes,” synthpoppers Inara George and Greg Kurstin of The Bird & The Bee decided to do an album exclusively of Hall & Oates covers! At a March show in Los Angeles, where Inara was so pregnant she looked ready to pop, they were joined on stage by John Oates, who strolled on saying, “I really need a dose of feel-good tonight. So let’s do it.” [Spin]
Best Song: “Maneater,” featuring vocals from Garbage’s Shirley Manson.

The Album: The Hot Rats, Turn Ons
The Concept: When Supergrass bassist Mickey Quinn sleepwalked out of a window and injured his spine (yes, this really happened), the remaining members of the band—Danny Goffey and Gaz Coombes—teamed up and formed a cover band along with producer Nigel Godrich. On their album, they play tunes by everyone from the Sex Pistols to the Beastie Boys. The Hot Rats’ recent tour was something of a last hurrah since last week Supergrass announced that after 17 years, they are dunzo. [NME, The Guardian]
Best Song: The Cure’s “Lovecats. One song you won’t hear? Michael Jackson’s “Beat It.” It was originally planned for the album, but was dropped shortly before Jackson’s death when they heard another band do a lame version of it. [Independent]

The Album: Assorted Artists, Ciao My Shining Star: The Songs of Mark Mulcahy
The Concept: Who is Mark Mulcahy, you ask? He was the frontman of two ’90s rock outfits, Miracle Legion and Polaris. Last year, his wife died suddenly. To raise funds for the bankrupt rocker, folks like Dinosaur Jr., Michael Stipe, The National, and Frank Black got together to record a cover album of Mulcahy’s best songs. Hey, they’re good friends. [Pitchfork]
Best Song: Thom Yorke’s version of “All for the Best”

The Album: The Flaming Lips with Stardeath and the White Dwarfs, Dark Side of the Moon
The Concept: Wayne Coyne of the Flaming Lips can only be described as a mad musical scientist. Ditto for his nephew, Dennis Coyne, who fronts the band Stardeath and the White Dwarfs. To ring in 2010, the two decided to get their bands together and re-record Pink Floyd’s classic album. They also played the full thing live at a New Year’s Eve show I wish I had been at. Let’s just say it was probably much more fun than listening to the album while watching “The Wizard of Oz” backwards. [MTV]
Best Song: “On the Run,” which brings the added bonus of Henry Rollins

The Album: Cyndi Lauper, Memphis Blues
The Concept: Fresh off her stint on “Celebrity Apprentice,” Cyndi Lauper was ready to go back to the studio. And rather than write pop songs, she decided to cover her favorite blues songs. She’s joined on the album by big-deal guests like BB King and Allen Toussaint. Even though they’re classic songs, Cyndi still sounds so unusual. The album drops in June.
Song We’re Most Looking Forward To: Charlie Spand’s “Early in the Mornin'”