Not a week having gone by since Ryan Adams’ masterful ‘1989’ cover of Taylor Swift’s transition to the pop industry, Bleachers and Jack Antonoff delve into a cover album of their own.
This time it’s a concept Antonoff has experimented with before, aptly named ‘Terrible Thrills Vol. 2’, a sequel to the original ‘Terrible Thrills’ which was used a similar cover album as a companion for the self-titled album with his previous band, Steel Train.
Terrible Thrills Vol. 2
RCA Records; 2015
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‘Terrible Thrills’ sees the recordings of ‘Strange Desire’, Bleachers’ debut release, twisted to a fresh perspective with all-female vocals and new instrumentation. In some cases the tempo is changed entirely, in Lucius’ 60’s-style of ‘Wake Me’, the song is changed so dramatically, and in an entirely different style, that one would hardly know it was the same, save for the lyrics.
Some cases, such as Bleachers’ tourmate Charlie XCX’s cover of ‘Rollercoaster’ the song hasn’t changed; however, her vocals in combination with properly used filtering lend enough of a fresh take that it becomes a clearly-defined perspective.
Every song features a different artist performing their own take on Antonoff’s powerfully earnest and heartfelt lyrics. In most instances the songs keep the same authenticity and emotion, while others, such as the bizarre electro pop rendition of ‘I Wanna Get Better’ with Tinashe, loses most of the original’s pop-punk guitar style, or Brooke Candy rapping the lyrics of ‘Take Me Away’, a significant part of the material becomes lost in the process of attempting to individualize each track.
There are many points where the new songs are actually subjectively improved. For example; the absence of Yoko Ono on ‘I’m Ready to Move On’, replaced with the adept Susanna Hoffs, makes for instant progress. The overly artistic stylism is gone, and in its place a song featuring fantastic guitar backing and an almost entirely changed soundscape is born.
The final track is an incredible reimagining of ‘Who I Want You To Love’ with Natalie Maines, with a more emboldened building drum rhythm and an incredible blues-rock guitar riff in the ending portion. It’s hard to believe that this song was hidden somewhere in the original.
It seems, oddly enough, that where ‘Strange Desires’ almost fell short, especially in the latter half, the all-female reimagining took hold and created songs that were in many instances a much-needed revitalization, using many individualized approaches to create a compilation of personalities.
While some artists lend a hand in resculpting the soundscape into something bold and completely reshaped, which often comes with rewarding and positive results, others fall short on trying to tamper with a song that either had already reached near-perfection, or took too much creative freedom and gave birth to something muddled with electronic sounds, such as is the case with Carly Rae Jepsen’s cover of ‘Shadow’.