Cover songs are always fun, sometimes in a good way and sometimes in a tragic way but here, at the GATRS, we’ve decided to take a look at some of our favorites and see just how well they stack-up to the original.
In this post, we’ll look at an Arctic Monkeys classic, Despair in the Departure Lounge, up against its cover by the Kooks.
Backed, for the most part, by nothing more than acoustic guitar. Everything is quite stripped-back and low-key in this soft, lilting song. Alex Turner pairs his mournful lyrics with a brilliant-but-understated vocal performance, highlighted by his trademark (at the time) Sheffield accent. Halfway through the song, during its brief interlude, a simple, tinkling piano line that mirrors the vocal melody breaks through, adding a touch of subtle charm to this sad little tune. The audio quality is pretty poor on this track (especially on the vocals, giving them a somewhat “tinny” sound), though this was presumably intentional, meant to add to the raw and personal feeling of the song (which, in my opinion, it does).
In a live acoustic performance for XFM radio, The Kooks play their own, slightly faster version of the song. There is a certain energy to this performance that’s not present in the original track. The music is sprinkled with unique little guitar flourishes throughout (my favorite feature of this cover!), adding an interesting dimension to the song. Luke Pritchard’s vocals are full of emotion, and he switches between his head and chest voice often (in contrast to Turner’s more subdued/”one note” performance). At one point, the main vocal part is even complimented by a few lines of backup vocals – a barely-noticeable touch that adds a little something extra to this cover.
Both versions of this song have some special touches that work to their favor, and musically, both versions do a solid job of capturing the feeling behind the lyrics – AM’s version simply does so in a more subtle way. And, in the end, it’s their version that I would crown the winner this time around (though I admit I’m somewhat biased, as I am a diehard AM fan, as well as a firm believer that it’s nearly impossible for a cover to surpass the original).
But what do you think? Which version do you prefer?