I seem to be running short on ideas, which means this will only be a quick post before I think of something really amazing to say; and thus have the ability to post something possibly more worthwhile than a discussion about a Black Flag song that two bands; both the opposite end of the music spectrum, have covered.
I became unhealthily obsessed with this track a few weeks back, which led me to listen to the three different versions I had of it back-to-back, almost non-stop over several evenings. Those of you who have heard ‘Depression‘ (taken from Black Flag‘s mirror-smashing ‘Damaged‘) will know it’s an exceptional piece of no-frills, punk rock fury, completed by some quite deep and emotional lyrics about alienation, solitary and of course joylessness, disillusion and despair. Cheerful eh? Bet you feel really fucking happy now! Let’s take a brief look at the two bands and their take on this slice of sentimental musicianship.
Led by Dave Longstreth, Dirty Projectors recorded a cover of ‘Depression‘ for the album ‘Rise Above‘, a strange kind of concept/tribute album. It was Longstreth’s attempt at recording the entire ‘Damaged’ album from memory. Crazy, right? His interpretation of ‘Depression’ is a million miles away from the caustic power of the Black Flag original.
Although, it still contains the rather clunking bass/drum sound on the song’s chorus, but obviously much slower, chunkier and sinister. In fact, the whole cover is a kind of headfuck trip, with the female vocals possibly provided by Amber Coffman adding a haunting and melodramatic feel, echoing all of Longstreth’s heart-broken and miserable statements.
I mean, it’s just as intense as the original, possibly more so. The instrumentation is a complete ramshackle of twinkling keys, almost jazz-like guitar lines and odd horn breaks. The strongest element for me is the vocals, which puncture through the layer of sound quite majestically. Unlike Black Flag, Dirty Projectors have injected a rich warmness into this song, something that I didn’t think anyone could do. An amazing cover, but really one that needs repeated listening before you finally ‘get’ it.
Background info on this band can be found here, I can’t be bothered to type it out again. I think it’s the buzzsaw-like guitars that do it for me. They seem to sound even more feral and brutish than those on the original.
Maybe it’s the heightened production, I don’t know. It chugs and grinds for 20-odd seconds, before letting rip like a particularly moist fart after one lethal tasting curry and several pints of Guinness. Possibly the most punk track the Boston quintet has ever released – relentlessly fast to the point of reaching heart-attack status.
Unlike Dirty Projectors however, it is slightly one-dimensional and it fails to retain some of the grit and repulsion felt in the original (Rollins vocal work in particular, in which he rasps most of the lyrics in an almost drunken slur) but vocalist Eisold manages to convey the sense of total and utter misery, as well as portraying to the listener just how fucked off he really is.
Those of you interested in listening to these two covers and the original…..will have to buy Black Flag’s ‘Damaged‘, Dirty Projectors ‘Rise Above’ and ‘Black on Black: a Tribute To Black Flag’.