Written by Fense
In college I frequented a classy joint that more often than not featured jazz on a nightly basis. We didn’t care if the Thursday night student-led jazz group played 70s soul and R&B hits by favs like Al Green and Van Morrison. Sure, they didn’t match the originals, but damn was it fun to sing along! I remember continually thinking (especially on their open mic nights) that cover songs are rarely as good as the original.
Actually, on open mic nights I hated cover songs. I wanted to hear something original; something someone put their heart and soul into. And I was constantly disappointed that all the audience wanted to hear was the old classic hits. It downright pissed me off.
But cover songs aren’t all bad, and I’ve come to learn that over the past few years. Take By The Numbers by The Postmarks (MySpace) as a prime example. Marley’s “Three Little Birds” is given a refreshingly not-reggae twist, while the 007 hit “You Only Live Twice” is given new light with Tim Yehezkely’s airy female vocals. Sure, people will hate these songs and this group for deconstructing these tunes, but that’s what makes it brilliant — the best cover songs sound NOTHING like the original. Most covers of Dylan’s “Watchtower” will tell you that.
Compile an album and you’re more than likely to have a few duds. Fill a similar album with cover songs and that potential increases exponentially. By The Numbers is no exception – I have a hard time getting into their rendition of Jobim’s “One Note Samba”, but on the other hand “OX4” (originally by Ride) is a more than adequate make-up.
The Postmarks’ trademark pop sound from their self-titled debut present throughout By The Numbers. But they go above and beyond, showing growth in what one would normally call songwriting (with covers, it’s hard to call it that, though several songs are undeniably different from their originals, allowing the term to adequately apply here). Just listen to their rendition of The Byrds’ “Eight Miles High”; the instrumental conclusion is awe-inspiring.
The array of songs the group has chosen to cover is quite eclectic and far reaching. Aside from the above noted artists, they hash out new versions of tunes by championed artists like Bowie, The Ramones, The Ventures, Blondie, and Jesus & Mary Chain. Not a small feat. Not small at all.
To wrap it all up, in By The Numbers, The Postmarks set themselves aside from other pop artists. This early in the game, they go and release an album packed with cover songs – and good ones, ones that lack much of the luster of the originals at that. Without hearing the album, one might think they’re washed up. After all, with one full-length of originals and a remixes EP, they go and release this; it doesn’t necessarily scream creativity. But let me tell you, it is not that. No, this trio is very much alive – they’re just going about it a bit differently, that’s all. And it makes for something very, very unique.
Unfiltered Records [CD, 2008]
1. One Note Samba (Antonio Carlos Jobim)
2. You Only Live Twice (John Barry & Nancy Sinatra)
3. Three Little Birds (Bob Marley & The Wailers)
4. OX4 (Ride)
5. Five Years (David Bowie)
6. Six Different Ways (The Cure)
7. 7-11 (The Ramones)
8. Eight Miles High (The Byrds)
9. Nine Million Rainy Days (Jesus & Mary Chain)
10. Slaughter On Tenth Avenue (The Ventures)
11. 11:59 (Blondie)
12. Pinball Number Count (The Pointer Sisters)