I don’t think Portishead are capable of making a bad album. Every word to leave Beth Gibbon’s mouth is soulful and beautiful, perfectly complimented by rusty glockenspiels and twanging guitars. They are a one of kind band and their latest offering, in true Portishead style, sounds a little weird. For Ben Wheatley’s latest blockbuster High Rise, Portishead will be covering ABBA’s ‘S.O.S’. Although it’s currently blocked on YouTube, I can’t wait. Poppy, upbeat ABBA could really do with a dark and mournful revamp that promises to be every bit as good as the original.
The best covers are the ones that are the most unexpected, the ones that cross the boundaries of genre to make something fresh
When I was scrolling round the internet trying to find Portishead’s version I came across hundreds of ‘S.O.S’ covers, mostly acoustic and pretty similar to the original. ‘S.O.S’ is a great song, but because it’s so iconic it really needs to be covered by the pros. I think they are the perfect band for this kind of cover - you know that you’re in safe hands with Portishead. There have only been a few examples of a cover song becoming so successful it transcends the title of ‘cover’ to become a song respected in its own right. The Flying Lizards’ cover of Barret Strong’s ‘Money’ managed to put a quirky twist on the original making, in my opinion, a song as good or better than the original. The same goes for Marilyn Manson’s ‘Personal Jesus’, it can’t even be compared to the original because it’s a song in it’s own right. Sadly this isn’t always the case. Remember that awful time when every pop-punk band decided to drop what little punk they had in order to pursue pop covers? What ensued was ‘Umbrella’ by All Time Low and ‘I Kissed A Girl’ by Attack Attack. Both have the signature angsty teenage vibe, but none of the emo lyrics to back it up and so sound like a parody of pop-punk itself, like a bunch of men in converse doing a very misguided karaoke.
these covers all fall into a sort of limbo land between good pop songs and pop-punk, making their own weird mutant genre that no one should’ve been forced to listen to
Perhaps I’m biased because I literally can’t stand pop-punk, but these covers all fall into a sort of limbo land between good pop songs and pop-punk, making their own weird mutant genre that no one should’ve been forced to listen to. Then there’s covers that fully acknoweledge and play up to the fact they are covers in order to shift copies. By taking song that was already relatively popular and adding a famous name to it almost guarantees a hit. ‘The Tide Is High’ went to number one sung by both Blondie and Atomic Kitten- even Blondie’s version was a cover! However, ABBA and Portishead have nothing to prove. They are both epic, which leaves them Portishead free to do with ABBA what they wish. The best covers are the ones that are the most unexpected, the ones that cross the boundaries of genre to make something fresh. A crazy mix that takes the best elements of both, without diluting the original or the covering artist’s sound, like Dizzee Rascal covering Grimes, or Mac DeMarco covering the Spice Girls (please someone make this happen). The greatest thing about covers is the element of surprise. Portishead and ABBA sure sound great on paper and it’s hard to imagine them sounding like anyone other than themselves. I’m sure they’ll do ABBA proud.
Brooklyn Shakeshaft Ward