In case you missed it in between the Grammys and the new stuff The Strokes and Justin Timberlake bringing you all the Suits and Ties with David Fincher, Mark Kozelek, he of Sun Kil Moon and Red House Painters, released a new covers album called Like Rats. This isn’t Kozelek’s first foray into covers territory by any means, but it’s first off, very good, and second off, a rather interesting roster of artists. There’s D.C. punk (Bad Brains’ “I”), two very prominent but very different names in progressive rock (Genesis, Yes), the title track from Godflesh, a track each from Danzig and the Misfits, and, of all people, Bruno Mars.
But one of the standouts here is the stomach-dropping closer, a simultaneously gentle and devastating take on Sonny and Cher’s “I Got You Babe.” And how quickly the warm, fuzzy Sonny and Cher classic turns into a spare, heart-wrenching tale of desperation, of a broken man, down on his luck, clinging to the one thing he has left in this life: his babe. This is how you do covers, people. Kozelek is a reminder that covering a song can actually still be an artistic statement and really create the song anew as opposed to just making overly precious folk versions of rap songs for YouTube, perky college a cappella arrangements or soulless, grinning Glee soundtrack reproductions. And thank God for that.
Stream Like Rats over at Pitchfork Advance while you still can, or watch Kozelek do his thing on Bad Brains’ “I” below.