Battle of the Stones Covers: First Aid Kit vs. The Walkmen
In which we take a break from discussing that Fleetwood Mac indie-rock tribute album to bring you dueling Rolling Stones covers. BBC’s Radio 6 is in the midst of a 50th anniversary tribute to Mick, Keith and the gang, featuring a whole lot of special programming, audio documentaries, interviews and a poll in which you can vote for the greatest Stones song of all time (although, surprisingly, the BBC’s list includes a few covers, including their version of Muddy Waters’ classic "Mannish Boy").
Anyway, for said tribute month, more contemporary artists are coming in and offering their takes on a few Stones classics. Back-to-back, we’ve had Swedish folk duo First Aid Kit strip down the plaintive B-Side "Play With Fire" (which, like many of their other songs, has been used at a poignant moment in a Wes Anderson movie, this case The Darjeeling Limited) and The Walkmen with the lovelorn "Blue Turns to Grey," a deep cut for the Stones (although a standout for the late Brian Jones) but a hit as a cover for the decidedly less rock ‘n’ roll (per canonical standards, anyway) Cliff Richard & The Shadows.
The Walkmen’s take on "Blue" is pretty straightforward, with echoes of Jagger and Richards’ original heavy harmonies and a bit of that effortless rock feel towards the end. First Aid Kit stray a bit further from the original, opting for more spare instrumentation (no harpsichord or harmonica here)—just a guitar and occasional glockenspiel, but they stay rather true to the tone, maintaining the sneer on "she gets her kicks in Stepney" and building harmonies capable of haunting a house and then burning it down. Listen to both below.
The Walkmen – "Blue Turns to Grey"
First Aid Kit – "Play With Fire"