Lou Barlow: “Round-N-Round”
Just before starting today’s post, I heard that singer Jani Lane of Warrant had passed away at age 47. As tragic as it is for anyone to die that young, I always hated Warrant (and pretty much every other “hair metal” band), so there won’t be any Warrant song today here in tribute. However, it just so happens that the song I had chosen for today is about as close as you’ll come to a hair-metal post here, as it’s a cover of a song by Ratt, one of the other big ’80s bands of that type. But for all of you former Ratt or Warrant fans out there, don’t try to convince me that they’re so out of the other band’s league that they can’t be compared — you’ll never get me to appreciate either band, I promise you.
Nonetheless, in this fourth installment of Cover Friday (seems like I could come up with a catchier name for it, doesn’t it? Any ideas?), Lou Barlow has certainly done his best to make a case for Ratt’s “Round and Round” as a great song. And to be honest, the original version is probably one of the few songs of that genre that I could listen to all the way through, if I really had to for some reason. Barlow is perhaps best known as one of the founding members of Dinosaur Jr., Sebadoh, and the Folk Implosion — he’s one of the most important figures in the lo-fi, post-punk scene, ultimately influencing scores of alternative bands that followed in the ’90s and 2000s. On “Round-N-Round” (abbreviated slightly from the original for some reason), which appeared on Barlow’s great 2005 solo album, Emoh, he applies his acoustic folk-punk style to this glam-metal hit, transforming it into an angsty acoustic love song that would have stood its ground alongside Barlow’s original compositions, had he written it himself. I think the best covers are often those that move a song from one genre into another, making it barely recognizable as the same song, yet allowing it to work on its own terms in the new format. With “Round-N-Round,” Barlow did just that — and allowed me to finally appreciate a song that I would have otherwise avoided 9 times out of 10.