When Indie Bands Cover Pop Songs

We’ve just been listening to Low’s cover of Toto’s yacht rock classic ‘Africa’. It’s a pretty spine tingling recreation of the song, with Mimi and Alan harmonising like a depressive Carpenters.

Also this week Cyndi Lauper gave her stamp of approval to The Arcade Fire by joining them onstage for a version of her effervescent perennial ‘Girls Just Want To Have Fun’.

It got us thinking: what are the best indie rock cover versions? Here’s our Top 10!


10) Arctic Monkeys have worked their distinctive magic on Shirley Bassey’s ‘Diamonds Are Forever’ and Girls Aloud’s ‘Love Machine’, making them both sound like tracks that could have easily slipped out of their back catalogue. However, our personal favourite is their take on Amy Winehouse’s cheating ‘n’ chips track ‘You Know I’m No Good’.

9) The Lemonheads might be best known for ‘grunging up’ Simon and Garfunkel’s ‘Mrs Robinson’ but they’ve also done a similar (and better in our opinion) re-tooling of Suzanne Vega’s ‘Luka’.

8) Thanks to Annie Hardy’s child-like delivery, Giant Drag’s version of Madonna’s ‘Oh Father’ is wonderfully creepy and heavy with Electra-complex connotations. Eek!

7) It seems a long time ago, but we had a deep love for The Futureheads jangly, barber shop re-tooling of Kate Bush’s ‘Hounds Of Love’. Roll out the indie disco bunting from 2007…

6) Of Montreal drop the day-glo psychedelics for this sober cover of Lindsey Buckingham’s ‘Trouble’. We can’t remember Kevin Barnes ever sounding as mellow as he does on this re-rub of the Fleetwood Mac man’s solo single.

5) On the entirely other end of the scale is David Byrne’s take on Whitney Houston’s ‘I Wanna Dance With Somebody’. It is, if you can believe it, more joy-filled than the spangly 80s original.


4) Maybe this doesn’t count (indie rock covers of indie rock?) but we have to give a shout out to CSS’s Grizzly Bear cover ‘Knife’, which was recently featured in the film The Kids Are All Right. Lovefoxxx and co give the track a dramatic electronic overhall.

3) Greg Dulli makes every song he tackles sound whisky soaked and winded. Take the Twilight Singers version of Prince’s ‘When Doves Cry’. He brings his dangerous machismo to the track and ekes out the lyrics about disquiet for maximum dramatic effect.


2) Similarly The Afghan Whigs version of TLC’s ‘Creep’ sounds like it’s on the brink of emotional collapse and just a prelude to a tragedy. Just listen to how he sings: ’aff-ec-tion’. It’s pretty stirring stuff.

1) Perhaps our favourite indie cover is Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy’s version of Mariah Carey’s self-reliance anthem ‘Can’t Take That Away’. The backing track sounds like it was cribbed from a 99p karaoke machine and the former Mr Oldham’s delivery sounds like a recent rehab outpatient reciting from a 12-step manual. Brilliantly odd.

Tell us what your favourite indie rock cover is and why below…