Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Cover Me, Day One : Love Is Blindness - Jack White


I've set myself a bit of a mission. For the next seven days, I'll be posting about some of my favourite cover versions. The title for this series is taken from a Springsteen song which, incidentally, isn't a cover. But if you've clicked on the link, you're lepping around to a belter. Best to leave the reading for the next three and a half minutes so.

And you're back! I first heard Jack White's version of Love Is Blindness last year, when Q magazine brought out a CD of artists covering songs from Achtung Baby. It's probably my favourite U2 album; I started listening to it when I was 13 and really getting into music. Love Is Blindness gave me the heebie-jeebies - it still does.

I heard White's cover again recently when I watched what I think is a dodgy trailer for Baz Luhrman's 3D take on The Great Gatsby. Have a look - does anyone else think the hurtling yellow car is straight out of Roger Rabbit? And it's a little disconcerting that Peter Parker is playing the narrator in one of my favourite books.

Anyway, back to the song in question. What I like about the original is that Bono holds back when his voice could go up. He mightn't be known for his subtlety, but he shows some here, bringing out the song's sense of loss, and setting the scene for the rawness of Edge's solo. 

White's version forsakes the opening Hammond organ coda for drum beats, going for a different tone from the get-go. He matches Bono's vocal for the first verse, before letting rip on the second. Restraint is howled away, then the ex-White Stripes' man launches into some suitably messy guitar shredding.

He seems to be playing on the anger that the original alludes to. But, as John Lydon said, anger is an energy. At one point, White sounds lost in the song, changing (or forgetting) the lyrics to 'Love is blindness/I'm so sick of it.'  It's the moment, for me, that marks what makes a great cover - that point where it takes on a life of its own, separate from the original.

U2's Love Is Blindness  is forlorn, watching TV with the sound turned down; Jack White chucks that telly out the window.

Rock 'n' roll.

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