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Under the Covers: Placebo

Under the Covers: Placebo

Placebo - Covers

Cover songs are something that nearly every band does, especially when they are just starting out. Some bands, over time, release covers as b-sides or one here and there on a full-length album.  Today’s Under the Covers looks at Placebo’s Covers compilation released three different times. The first time it was released as a bonus disc for the 2003 album Sleeping with Ghosts. The second time was a digital release in 2007 (the picture above is from that release), and once more again in 2010 by EMI, where the cover had a Sleeping With Ghosts themed design.

“Running Up That Hill” (Kate Bush)

“Running Up That Hill” is the first single released from Kate Bush’s fifth studio album, Hounds of Love.  Released in 1985, it was Bush’s most successful single in the 80s.

Placebo recorded their version of the song exclusively for this covers collection in 2003.

Original Version

Cover by Placebo

Which is better?

I’ve heard the Kate Bush version of this song before I heard the cover, and it still just doesn’t jive with me. I’m not sure why. The Placebo version, though, seems to modernize the song, and tap into the mood better, at least for me.

“Where is My Mind?” (The Pixies)

“Where is My Mind?” is the seventh track on the 1988 album Surfer Rosa, and was featured in the ending scene of the movie Fight Club. It is one of their most recognized songs.

Placebo recorded their version of the song as a b-side for the single “This Picture”, and was performed live with the band and Pixies lead singer Black Francis on Placebo’s Soulmates Never Die live DVD.

Original Version

Cover by Placebo

Which is better?

I thought that Placebo did a great job covering this song, but whenever I hear the song, even by Placebo, I think immediately of the Pixies. This song is The Pixies and what their music stands for. Surf rock never sounded so sexy.

“Bigmouth Strikes Again” (The Smiths)

“Bigmouth Strikes Again” is the second single from the Smiths’ third album, The Queen is Dead.  Placebo released their version on their 1997 single “Nancy Boy”.

Original Version

Cover by Placebo

Which is better?

As much as I enjoy and respect The Smiths, Placebo’s updated lyrics and refined take make the song sound better, though their lyrical changes are now outdated with the rise of digital music and the iPod. Placebo totally rocks this song.

“Johnny and Mary” (Robert Palmer)

“Johnny and Mary” is a song by Robert Palmer, released in 1980 as the first single from Palmer’s sixth album, Clue. This song is the best known song for the album, and a version of it was used to promote Renault automobiles in the 80s and 90s.

Placebo’s cover was released as a b-side for the single “Taste in Men”, from the album Black Market Music.

Original Version

Cover by Placebo

Which is better?

The Placebo version of this song is solid. I actually wish they would have released this one as a single on its own, like they did with “Running Up That Hill”. Robert Palmer’s version is pretty awesome, too. If I really had to choose, I’d choose the Robert Palmer version, because of it’s impact in the New Wave scene.

“20th Century Boy” (T. Rex)

“20th Century Boy” was released in 1973 as a single by the band T. Rex.  Placebo released their cover on the Velvet Goldmine soundtrack and as a b-side on the single “You Don’t Care About Us”.

Original Version

Cover by Placebo

Which is better?

I’m very indifferent about this song in general. I’m not sure why, but I never really got into it.  Both versions sound nearly the same, but I’d probably go with the original.

“The Ballad of Melody Nelson” (Serge Gainsbourg)

“The Ballad of Melody Nelson” is a song originally written and performed by Serge Gainsbourg. Placebo’s version is featured on the tribute album Monsieur Gainsbourg Revisited. All of the songs were translated from French to English for this tribute album.

Original Version

Cover by Placebo

Which is better?

While the original is seductive, Placebo added a little more life in their version, and not because it’s in English. The band completely transformed the song into something more hip and poppy. I vote for the Placebo version this time.

“Holocaust” (Big Star)

This song was originally featured in the second volume of Under the Covers.

“I Feel You” (Depeche Mode)

“I Feel You” is the first single released by Depeche Mode from their 1993 album, Songs of Faith and Devotion. It is one of the most prominent singles from the album and is still performed live by them today.

Placebo covered their version of the song and it first appeared on a fan club only cassette as well as the American version of Black Market Music.

Original Version (sort of)

Cover by Placebo

Which is better?

Unfortunately, Warner Music kind of sucks, so I was only able to provide a really awesome live version of the song. I really like what Placebo did with their talk on the song, but the problem I have with their version is that the ending drones on far too long… about a minute or two too long. Plus, it’s pretty hard to top Depeche Mode. No joke.

“Daddy Cool” (Boney M)

“Daddy Cool” was a disco hit in 1976 by the group Boney M.  Placebo’s version first appeared as a b-side on “The Bitter End” single.

Original Version

Cover by Placebo

Which is better?

As fun as the Boney M. version is, I find the Placebo version more catchy and upbeat, but darker than the original. I do believe it’s very fitting for the song, though, and I choose Placebo’s version over the original.

“Jackie” (Sinead O’Connor)

“Jackie” is the opening track to Sinead O’Connor’s 1987 debut album, The Lion and the Cobra. Placebo’s version initially appeared as a bonus track on the DVD single for “This Picture”.

Original Version

Cover by Placebo

Which is better?

This is another track on the covers disc that doesn’t really appeal to me. I’m not a Sinead O’Connor fan, but it’s not a bad song. If I had to choose, I’d pick Placebo’s version of the song because the vocals sound more pleasing to me in their version.

This wraps up the long-winded Placebo edition of Under the Covers. See you all next week!

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