Nov 042012

I hate the “molasses cover.” HATE IT!

I’m not sure when this convention began, but that molasses-slow version of “Sweet Jane” from the 1980s by that Canadian band that recorded in a church is the first example of the phenomenon that made such a bad impression on me.

Why is it considered a good idea to cover a galloping or charging rock ‘n roll song at a third of the original’s speed? Was I previously not capable of getting the drama of the lyrics at the song’s original pace? Do artists think we’re, you know, “slow?”

I know some of you like Cowboy Junkies‘—that’s the band whose name I couldn’t remember—take on “Sweet Jane.” I can’t count that. Does the molasses cover EVER improve on the original?

I, most likely, dread your responses.


  35 Responses to “Molasses Cover”

  1. Tori Amos does this semi-frequently. I kind of like her “Smells Like Team Spirit” but it gets to be a bit of a gimmick.

  2. trigmogigmo

    It’s may be more like cotton candy than molasses, but I cannot help but smile at Nina Gordon’s cover of (just the first verse of) NWA’s “Straight Outta Compton”. The girly sweet voice singing those lyrics is funny. Fortunately someone posted a video that puts her version over part of the original video:

    But no, I don’t think it improves on the original.

  3. Slim Jade

    Does Kristin Hersh’s cover of When The Levee Breaks (at the beginning of this mix
    go in the plus or minus column?

  4. Slim Jade

    Mark Kozelek, from Red House Painters et al., excels at this kind of thing. Check out one of his AC/DC covers.

  5. French covers band Nouvelle Vague do Bossa Nova versions of punk & New Wave classics. There are albums of this “joke” that wears very thin very quickly. I was going to post a Dead Kennedy’s cover but a live version looked fun. (The female singers are very attractive). This misguided attempt at a Clash song surely deserves our ridicule.

  6. Cotton candy version is a good description. History needs to stage a showdown between the woman who did “Luka” and the woman with the catwoman glasses who had the video with Ethan Hawke. History’s 1990s time capsule can only fit one of those songs.

  7. How dare you accuse Tori Amos and her upskirt piano style of gimmickry!

  8. ladymisskirroyale

    It’s not quite as slow as molasses but it has the flavor of good ol’ black (flag) strap molasses:

  9. That’s not a molasses cover; it’s not much slower than the Zeppelin version. It’s more like a Led Zep III approach. Not bad at all, in the opinion of someone who usually finds anything regarding that Throwing Muses bunch highly distasteful.

  10. ladymisskirroyale

    I have to admit that if I didn’t know the song, I would have sort of liked it.

    I agree, Nouvelle Vague are sort of a one-punchline joke, but I do like their version “Master and Servant” is so out there that it’s funny:

  11. Coming from someone who’s not much of an AC/DC fan, this molasses cover may be an improvement. I’m not sure if I know the original version. Usually, though, I feel the same way about Red House Painters’ molasses covers as I think Joe Strummer sings at one point in the Mick Jones-led “Hate and War”: “HATE, HATE, HATE, HATE, HATE!”

  12. Slim Jade

    Swans’ cover of Love Will Tear Us Apart

  13. Slim Jade

    I know what your really hate: Mark Kozelek played the bassist in the “Almost Famous” band! Mua-haa-haa!

  14. Paul’s voice is funny enough as it is. Why do people try to make more of that song than it is?

  15. Man, that just sucks. It sounds like Anne Murray on vocals. That’s exactly the kind of song someone someday, if they haven’t already done a worse and slower version than this Swans’ attempt, will do. Most likely it will be someone who’s not even close to good, like The Great 48’s hero, that Lana Del Ray, or whatever her name is.

    Had Johnny Cash lived longer he might have done an especially fatalistic version. That actually might have been half decent. Maybe Glen Campbell has time to do a good cover.

  16. Is that originally a Black Flag song? If so, that’s a good, hippified version – not quite molasses.

  17. trigmogigmo

    Ha, I like it. Who knew Bon Scott’s lyrics could sound so painfully heartfelt? I’d like to hear Kozelek do a version of “Shot Down in Flames”, which would probably sound heartbreaking rather than bar room jokey-sleazy.

  18. trigmogigmo

    Haha! You mean Suzanne Vega, and I just figured out your other reference: Lisa Loeb. Funny, when I googled for “lisa loeb ethan hawke”, on the e for ethan the google suggested search was “lisa loeb eyewear”.

  19. I like how they do this one, more than I like the original, really:

  20. Slim Jade

    Back to Black Flag again, I’m fond of this Dirty Projectors cover of “Rise Above”:–Z30
    It’s from an entire album of BF covers.

  21. It seems that people have a favoured Nouvelle Vague cover but, please, don’t let it be P.I.L.’s “This Is Not A Love Song”. I’m with Mod on this, I really do not like the molasses cover. I will offer this Jackson 5 song by Madder Rose & will then remind myself of the sparky original

  22. Here Philly slide guy Mike Brenner playing Love Will Tear Us Apart on the chaturangi. I like this version but I should diclose that I don’t like Joy Division’s version and Mike is a friend of mine. He also does aversion of Pretty in Pink in this style.

  23. H. Munster

    Vanilla Sludge is to blame for the whole concept of molasses covers.

  24. Slim Jade

    Right about now, I’m wishing there was such thing as Mazzy Star doing “Pump It Up” that I could drop on you.

    Alas, how about Dave Pajo doing the Misfits instead.

  25. patrock

    a friend of mine was putting together a Throwing Muses tribute record and *really* wanted my band Dirty Power on it. I said yes, and then explained that the challenge of doing a good cover from a band I absolutely hated appealed to me. We did the song “Hate My Way” and I can’t find a free link to it at the moment, tho’ itunes has it….. but, uh ….here is what we did to Fleetwood Mac’s “Songbird”

  26. BigSteve

    I’m a big proponent of doing very different versions of covers. No point in doing faithful covers. ‘Molasses’ covers are just as valid as speedy punk covers — I guess Sid’s My Way is the prototype?

    I don’t like anything by the Cowboy Junkies EXCEPT their demerol version of Sweet Jane.

  27. bostonhistorian

    From one of my favorite albums of the 80s!

  28. Suburban kid

    Yeah from Black Flag’s golden pre-Damaged period of kickass singles. However, it is also a (n inferior) Circle Jerks song, as the original BF singer took or stole it for his new group.

  29. Suburban kid

    I really like this one. It is from an entire album of molasses covers:

  30. Ha! That totally sounds like Thin Lizzy covering the Mac. Nice work.

  31. machinery

    Bobs revenge slow version of “still” brought out the sadness inherent in the lyrics.

  32. hrrundivbakshi

    You know, I always thought that was a particularly good cover concept. Not sure we had the chops/maturity to pull it off, but it should’ve worked. Those lyrics are SAD, man!

  33. Shot with his own gun! After I posted this, I was afraid that version and the fine molasses version of the same song by Baby Flamehead might appear as proof that this approach doesn’t always suck:)


  34. I appreciated that other musician friends dug that song enough to cover it. It was written to be half serious, half tongue-in-cheek, which is how I live my life. That song has the distinction of being my only song written in Italy. I was suffering a fever in my family’s ancestral home in a tiny town in Abruzzo, Italy. While my beautiful aunt and her daughters tended to me, feeding me chamomile tea and biscuits, I was able to tune in some weird station that played a loop of the same dozen punk songs, including PiL’s “Poptones,” the New York Dolls’ “Personality Crisis,” and Captain Sensible’s “Say Wot” (I think that’s the title). The lyrics and the accents on the bass line I gave as a starting point to original Head bassist Steve Sagin are especially indebted to “Poptones.”

  35. patrock

    hey, thanks!

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