Week 49: “Blow Out” by Radiohead (L.O. Freq cover)

Cover songs are tricky.

If you stick to the original, you get criticized for trying to mooch off someone else’s popularity. If you make it really different, fans of the band you’re covering will accuse you of blasphemy.

But doing cover songs is completely natural when you think about it; after all, every band out there started because someone wanted to imitate their musical idols. Today’s pop divas were yesterday’s kids, singing along to Whitney Houston and Madonna. Today’s guitar heroes were yesterday’s awkward teens, secretly playing air-guitar to the solos of Slash, Hendrix, and Zeppelin.

Having said that, when a band puts out a cover song, it’s rare that they hit the magical balance between their own style and the elements that made the original song a memorable one to begin with. British ambient duo L.O. Freq did exactly that with their 2006 cover of Radiohead’s “Blow Out”. In fact, at the risk of being hunted down and killed by rabid Radiohead fans, I might even say that they improved upon the original.

What makes this a beautiful song:

1. A new guitar part. Whereas the original uses a few simple chords, L.O. Freq imagines whole new layers of acoustic awesomeness, making the song sound less urgent, and more textured.

2. A female vocalist. Thom Yorke has a wonderful, fragile voice, and he does great things with it. But Reeta Loi’s voice was tailor-made for this song. And she even manages to throw in some Yorkian mumbling for good measure.

3. A dreamy ending. While young, angsty Radiohead chose to go all “90’s rock guitar explosion” at the end of the track, L.O. Freq fades it out on soft synth strings, horns, and vocal “aahs”. As much as I like Radiohead’s version, written in 1993, but I can’t help but think that if they had written it in 2011, it might have come out sounding more like this.

Recommended listening activity:

Putting on that old band t-shirt you haven’t worn in ten years.

Buy it here.

p.s. If you know of any other beautiful cover songs, let me know: beautifulsongoftheweek@gmail.com