Cover // Original Verdict: Goodbye Girl
To remind you, a few weeks ago I presented this cover versus original debate for “Goodbye Girl.”
The cover by James Mercer of the Shins for Levi’s Pioneer Sessions (email address required for download)
Or, the original by Squeeze.
When it comes to cover songs, it’s kinda perfect that the Shins covered Squeeze’s “Goodbye Girl.” At least, for me.
You see, contrary to popular opinion (read: what my sister thinks), I didn’t always have what some may call ‘pretentious’ taste in music (read: how my sister describes it). In middle school, I loved Boyz II Men and Ace of Base. In high school, I followed the trends and listened to classic rock, 80s pop, jam bands, and the Fugees. I loved the Fugees. Heck, I still love the Fugees. But while I’m on the subject of my (cringe-worthy) high school listening habits, I may as well admit that I’ll probably die knowing all the words to the Indigo Girls‘s greatest hits (thanks to my summers at an all-girls camp), the Rent soundtrack, and the Rocky Horror Picture Show soundtrack.
After high school, my taste in music changed almost as predictably as my political outlook and almost as frequently as my declared major. Throughout my college years, I tried out 20s bebop, 90s indie rock, 70s punk, Motown, and all types of singer-songwriter. Eventually, I figured out what I liked in each genre. I started to have preferences and pick favorites. Words like ‘jangly,’ ‘twee,’ and ‘bubblegum pop’ entered my vocabulary as I searched for things that sounded like the Kinks or The Shirelles.
Which is how I came to know The Shins, whose music is definitely “in the style of” that I described above.1 One of my favorite mixes that I ever made features “New Slang.”2 Remember that song? It was one of the band’s earlier hits that became even more famous when it was included on the Garden State soundtrack in the summer of 2004. No matter how pretentious you want to be about it, the commercial success of the movie and the soundtrack introduced lots of people to pretty awesome, ‘indie pop’ music.
Thanks to my friend, Matt Erickson, 2004 was the same summer that I first heard Squeeze’s “Goodbye Girl.”3 (Notice: There’s a reason why you all should listen to Matt Erickson’s Top 100. I can attest to his good taste!) As the world was (re-)introduced to The Shins, I was (re-)introduced to this band that I knew from the Reality Bites soundtrack (which was also on repeat during my camp years). I was also introduced to other gems that I never would’ve heard if not for Matt’s recommendations.4
So, it’s kinda coincidental that James Mercer covered “Goodbye Girl,” especially for Levi’s Pioneer Sessions. Like how the Garden State soundtrack reminded people about the Shins and Nick Drake (Nick Drake’s “Northern Sky” was also included on one of Matt’s mixes), like Matt’s personal recommendations to me, Levi’s Pioneer Sessions will introduce a whole new generation of people to rock, soul, rap, and pop songs that may have otherwise gone unnoticed.
And, now, to announce my verdict… Let me preface it by saying, Matt Erickson’s right. Matt Erickson’s (pretty much) always right.
Contrary to what Matt commented, however, I *did* link to that version when recommending the song for downloading.5 Although it may sound like I’m criticizing him, please note that I emphasize this only to prove that I’ve soaked up whatever he has thrown out.
Plus, ever since that fateful summer in 2004, Matt and I have been sharing music recommendations. While my musical taste has changed over the years – mostly thanks to his influence, along with Fortuna Köln, Kiren, and a few others – I’m certain that Matt knows that I’ll always have a penchant for pop and a soft spot for catchy. And, Squeeze’s version is the ultimate in catchy pop.
Beginning with “Caring Is Creepy,” which opens this album with a psychedelic flourish that would not be out of place on a late-1960s Moody Blues, Beach Boys, or Love release, the Shins present a collection of retro pop nuggets that distill the finer aspects of classic acid rock with surrealistic lyrics, independently melodic basslines, jangly guitars, echo laden vocals, minimalist keyboard motifs, and a myriad of cosmic sound effects.
2 “Cuddle Up with Someone You Love,” Winter 2002.
1. Beat Happening – Down by the Sea; 2. The Beatles – Free as a Bird; 3. Brendan Benson – Sittin’ Pretty; 4. Elliot Smith – Waltz #2; 5. Jeff Buckley – Lover, You should’ve come over; 6. Jude – I do; 7. Letters to Cleo – Awake; 8. Manu Chao – Me Gustas Tu; 9. Matthew Sweet – We’re the Same; 10. Modest Mouse – Paper Thin Walls; 11. Pavement – Shady Lane; 12. Plumb – Damage; 13. Nico – These Days; 14. Spoon – The Way we Get By; 15. The Beatles – Real Love; 16. The Shins – New Slang (!!); 17. Tommy Roe – Sweet Pea; 18. Van Morrison – Tupulo Honey; 19. Wilco – I must be High.
Good mix, no?
3 Matt Erickson and I reconnected that summer in Ann Arbor. Before I left, he made me two mix cds, which I later named “Slit Your Wrists” and “Slit Your Wrists with More Pop.” Squeeze’s “Goodbye Girl” was on the latter.
4 These include, but are not limited to, Another Girl, Another Planet by the Only Ones; Love Will Tear Us Apart by Joy Division (yes, first time I listened to Joy Division); and Blue Moon by Big Star (one of my favorite songs of all time).
5 Unfortunately, it was not available to preview on youtube.