A cover is a tricky thing. At its worst, an artist attempts to recreate what they love about a song and the cover becomes a cheap facsimile of the original. At its best, the artist takes whatever originally spoke to them, but then reinterprets it, gets inside of it, and makes it their own. It’s like being a method actor: you take the script as it is, but you have to make the words come authentically from you. And angsty pop songs based on 19th century novels? That’s pretty Mappa Mundiish if anything is!
In this case, what makes “Like a Friend” great is the way its emotional narrative is so clear, while at the same time giving no specifics about the story whatsoever. All you get are those great metaphors for a relationship, or path, we know we shouldn’t follow, but we do anyway. “You’re like a car crash I can see but I just can’t avoid” doesn’t explain the ‘why’ – yet you’re sure you know the feeling.
The lyrics are so perfectly married to the music. The song sounds like what it’s about. It recklessly moves forward, never looks back, never repeats a section and then crashes just at its apex. When those guitars kick in (or ukulele, in my case) you know you can’t turn back.
For some reason, I had the idea to tinker with the piano, and I liked the concept of starting out with this ragtimey sound, as if played through a transistor radio (ala Jon Brion), Then, as it picks up, I double that part, but backwards, so the decay of the piano chord instead whooshes into its initial ‘ring.’ Similarly, the trumpet was recorded naturally, but then I carefully tweaked the reverb to make it sound very far away. At the end of the verse, and then the song, I decided to bring up the delay suddenly, to give it these little surreal flourishes, as if it was fading into a void. This should give a kind of ‘depth of field’ to the sound.
The effected drum beat, made from samples and drum machines, had to be kept quite clean (despite the delay, reverb, and distortion), as did the distorted ukulele, which needed to cut like a knife, (my singular, sonic ode to Pulp’s brilliant sound). Otherwise the whole thing got too muddy. And that is not the Pulp way.
Hopefully I did Jarvis, Doyle, Dickens, Cuarón, et al, justice. As always, downloading and sharing are enabled using the buttons on the player. And comments are encouraged!