I am a sucker for a good cover song. The majority of bands who do covers tend to change the original work only slightly to fit their specific style. To do a cover right, a band needs to spin the song 180 degrees and plant a flag in it, making it their own. I keep a compilation of my favorite cover songs handy and every once in a while I have a guessing game with friends about the songs in the compilation. Who did the song first? Who is doing it now?
On this EP there are two versions of covers done within my parameters of a successful cover song. One works beautifully, the other is the opposite of beauty.
"He Hit Me (and it felt like a kiss)" was released in the early sixties by Phil Spector managed girl group The Crystals (made famous for singing "Da Do Run Run"). It has been covered by a few notable acts over the years, but no one has yet to make it as heartbreakingly beautiful as Grizzly Bear has done here. Originally written by Gerry Goffin and Carole King as a protest song of sorts. They found out that singer Little Eva was being beaten by her boyfriend for, what she claims was his deep love for her. Pretty fucked up, 'eh? The Crystals got limited radio play and publicity for the song, but it was pulled from the air almost as soon as it was released due to its subject matter and the innocent ears of the public...
Grizzly Bear has taken that song and highlighted its dark subject matter with haunting melodies, slowing down the original tempo to a drag and bumping up the desperation in the words. It's almost as if this song was written for Grizzly Bear to perform. On the flipside, Band Of Horses can be found covering "Little Brother" (from Yellow House) in the most country-friend jangly way possible. It's safe to say I'm a member of the Grizzly Bear fan club and I think their work is genius, so when a band takes one of their dark and beautiful arrangements and turns them into a Lawrence Welk hoedown I can't help but be disappointed. No thank you, Band of Horses.
For an EP, Friend is more a full meal than an appetizer. With eleven tracks (most of them re-workings of previous Grizzly Bear songs) it only hints at the genius that is Grizzly Bear. Two of the songs were originally released on Horn of Plenty, Grizzly Bear's debut album - but are reworked to sound nothing like their original version. "Shift" went from a dark, lo-fi little number to a heartbroken plea in a nightmare world. It's one of my favorite songs released this year for sure.
"Granny Diner," released on the Japanese version of Yellow House is on this and makes me wonder why I don't relocate to Japan... They get all the good albums. Overall, this album is a must have for fans of Grizzly Bear... but if you haven't gotten into them yet, I'd say start with Yellow House and work your way around from there.