Peter Gabriel's relevance in the indie (or should I say "ternative") music scene has been present for some time now, especially with his style being replicated and name being dropped in quite a few Vampire Weekend songs and albums. But never has his presence been more felt than this past week, when his covers of Bon Iver's "Flume" and Arcade Fire's "My Body Is A Cage" were premiered on Stereogum.
"Flume" finds Gabriel scratching the acoustic guitar and falsetto of Bon Iver, and instead belting the lyrics out in his own way- a little stronger, a lot louder- with the help of some horns and a piano. The overall effect is much less hypnotic than the original song; while Gabriel still finds extreme emotion in Justin Vernon's lyrics, it's not in the same subtle, hushed way that is Bon Iver's trademark, and is what ultimately makes the original song the beauty it is. Still, the cover works, and Gabriel wisely allows the piano to take center stage over the brass. Listen to it below:
"My Body Is A Cage," is a better and bolder re-invention, with Gabriel replacing Arcade Fire's bombastic organs with, ironically enough, the over-the-top strings that the band usually relishes in. Gabriel's "Cage" features striking climaxes, switches in tone, and a sharp contrast between a cool, calm piano and frenetic strings. At the end, he throws in a gothic choir for effect, and stays truer to the way Win Butler ends the song, vocally. While Gabriel's voice doesn't match the depth of the song the way Butler's does, this cover, too, works and works extremely well.
While neither of these covers are of the rare breed that prove to be "better" than the original track, Gabriel gives great versions of great songs that most music fans are sure to enjoy. His full covers album, Scratch My Back, which als0 takes on Radiohead, Bowie, and the Magnetic Fields (you may remember Gabriel's fantastic "Book of Love" cover from the moving conclusion to the Scrubs finale last year), will be released on 2/15.