by Richard Hart
Cover versions are a risky fare. If you follow the original too closely or you’re too reverential and the criticism will be that you’ve simply imitated your hero. There’s nothing wrong with that but it’s hardly the sort of output that a professional recording artist should produce.
Equally stray too far from the original and people will be shocked, suggesting that you think you know better than the original or that you didn’t understand the original. If the source-track was a “classic” tune then it’s possible many of its fans will cluck and shake their heads, disturbed at “these new-fangled bands done understand classic music.”
It’s a tight-rope that Swedish act Simian Ghost were interested in treading when they produced a single for a compilation, which they have at least temporarily decided to shelve. However one track from the album is now available, a David Bowie cover.
“Be My Wife” isn’t one of Bowie’s most famous songs but Simian Ghost have taken a slightly esoteric tread with their cover, which befits the slightly surreal nature of the band. A dreamy, floating song that weaves around a nice blend of acoustic guitar and a light breezy vocal section.
This is stark contrast to the original’s rocky, brash Cockney tones. Simian Ghost’s cover strays so far from the original it becomes its own animal, leading to the sort of comment or criticism that it’s not really a cover anymore.
But Simian Ghost clearly admired the original and the reverence they pay it is in the production of the track which wouldn’t be out of place on some of Bowie’s more surreal work. A straight up cover of the song would play out like a tribute and Simian Ghost have paid greater tribute with the work they have done on this cover.