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Conor Oberst And Phoebe Bridgers Deliver A Trashy Cover Of Elliott Smith’s “St Ides Heaven”

Conor Oberst and Phoebe Bridgers
Conor Oberst and Phoebe Bridgers

Covering a song is an art by itself, you have to love the song and respect it to produce a good cover. I am all for reinventing the song, but it has to be done with style. There is often no point to imitate the original, except when you can improve it, but this rarely happens – Elliott Smith’s cover of The Beatles song “Because” probably falls in this category.

I am mentioning Elliott because Conor Oberst and Phoebe Bridgers have released a new cover of his popular song, “St Ides Heaven,” off his 1995 self-titled sophomore album. The song is actually featured on Bright Eyes’ “Letting Off The Happiness: A Companion,” the first of three EPs. The band plans to release 54 new recordings through the “Companion” series over the course of the year.

I am afraid that there’s nothing I like about this new cover, Conor Oberst wanted it to be much rougher than the original, I get it, but his voice sounds weird, fragile, drunk, and tough at the same time, so it simply doesn’t work for me. It’s not Phoebe Bridgers’s backup vocals that are gonna make a difference, you barely hear her anyway. Everything is fuzzy, distorted, and very rough, even the grungy guitars sound out of place, this was not a tune to trash the place! The original is an acoustic haunting song with a very distinctive sound, and this becomes noisy wannabe-grungy – unless they wanted to sound punk? It’s a big leap they decided to take, and this would have required big ideas to make it interesting. Instead, they killed the melody and that’s the worst they could have done. It sounds like some sloppy last-minute thing rushed without any inspiration.

Conor even sings “And everyone can see I’m no good instead of “And everybody can see I’m no good.” Not a big deal you are gonna say? May be but it sounds more negligence than voluntary alteration: you can even read this under the video posted on Youtube: “”St. Ides Heaven (Companion Version)”, an Elliot Smith cover, from ‘Letting Off The Happiness: A Companion’ in the Bright Eyes reissue series.”

Fans will immediately notice the one “t” at the end of “Elliott,” as this is always something that seems to bother people for a good reason. Conor, do you really care so little?

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