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Covers that Reinvent the Wheel: “Spit on a Stranger”

January 19, 2009
Yes, he's pudgy and hilarious now, but in a few short years he'd be all heart-throbby and virtuosic. Don't you feel sorry for snickering now?

Yes, he's pudgy and hilarious now, but in a few short years he'd be all heart-throbby and virtuosic. Don't you feel sorry for snickering now?

I’ve been thinking a lot about covers recently. Because I’ve been listening to a lot of covers recently. And I think that the best variety of covers (not to repeat myself) are those that show a fresh and new perspective on the original song. No artist comes to mind who does this as ably as Chris Thile. From his roots in Nickel Creek to his outstanding solo album to his fantastic new band, he’s shown an ability to bluegrassify covers with grace and ingenuity, making other people’s songs his own.

The best way to start in this is to discuss the cover that first got me thinking about Bluegrassification: Pavement’s “Spit on a Stranger.” As a musically precocious 12-year-old, I fell in love with Pavement, particularly Terror Twilight. One day, I was singing “Spit on a Stranger” to myself, and my 10-year-old brother started to sing along. I was heartbroked — how had he forayed into uncharted indie waters before me? I asked him how he knew the song, and he told me about Nickel Creek, a band one of his loserish friends had turned him onto. He played me this cover, and my tiny little brain was melted. What are these mandolins doing in my Pavement? I still ask myself this question, but the cover is delicious. In a fried-cookie dough kind of way. Yes, I’ll eat it because I’m obligated to eat anything I like that’s been deep-fried, but I’ll enjoy it, because, what is this, some sort of french fry cookie? Enjoy the original and the cover, and then tell me which one you like better.

Spit on a Stranger – Pavement

Spit on a Stranger – Nickel Creek

I’ll ride this covers thing into the dirt, don’t you worry. And expect at least 2 more Chris Thile-based covers. They’re all delicious. Like deep-fried Twinkies or Zebra Cakes. Or deep-fried pickles. God, I need some boiling oil right about now.

Also, please let me know if you think there are any covers I should investigate. Comment; it makes me feel loved.

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