Cake: “I Will Survive”
It’s Cover Friday once again (just here at Reselect — I haven’t succeeded yet in making it a national event), and this time around I’ve chosen Cake’s truly excellent and amusing version of Gloria Gaynor’s 1979 disco hit, “I Will Survive.” Disco songs are usually good candidates for interesting covers, because quite often what makes them unappealing to some folks is the disco-era production techniques, synthesizers, cheesy strings, drum beats, etc. Strip all that away and what you’re often left with is an otherwise catchy song just waiting to be given a new life.
In this case, from their 1996 album, Fashion Nugget, Cake turns it into a slow-burn, nearly spoken-word piece (but then again, most of their songs are “nearly spoken-word” — that’s singer John McCrea’s calling card). They play it for the irony, but you can tell that they have respect for the song as well. Whereas Gaynor belted the song out for all to hear that she wasn’t going to let the bastard get her down, McCrea sounds like he’s talking to himself as he putters around his now-empty apartment in his bathrobe, trying to convince himself that he’s going to make it. I’m pretty sure I don’t remember Gaynor saying anything about changing the “f—ing” locks, as McCrea throws in there, so it seems he’s feeling even more bitter about the situation than she was. Cake’s use of trumpet where there was once the sweep of disco strings, combined with the slow build of the acoustic guitar into electric guitar, adds growing drama where McCrea’s vocals fail to supply it. And the result is a fun scallop of disco reminiscence, all wrapped up in a delicious slice of alterna-rock bacon.