When is a cover song better than the original? Only you can decide. This week YACHT takes on X’s “Nausea.” MAGNET’s Ryan Burleson pulls the pin. Take cover!
There was always something different about Los Angeles-based, late-’70s punk icons X. Not different in the sense that our parents understood punk itself—fear everything they don’t understand kind of thing—but in a way that belied the band’s musical and literary pedigree. Singer Exene Cervenka and bassist John Doe, who would later be married for five years, met in poetry class; original guitarist Billy Zoom had previously backed legendary rockabilly artist Gene Vincent; and drummer D.J. Bonebrake would go on to perform with classical jazz groups. Nonetheless, X’s sound was just as raw and sinister as that of the Germs and Black Flag, which, alongside X, were giving the movement a visibility in L.A. it had never before seen. X was inspired by ideas and a new sound, not empty technical proficiency.
For its part, YACHT extinguishes the guttural haze of X’s “Nausea,” which first appeared on the band’s 1980 debut, Los Angeles, and replaces it with a slick, krautrock structure that somehow captures the brooding aesthetic of the original pretty well. Perhaps only because all the lyrics are clearly audible—the same can’t be said of the X version, nor of most punk songs from the period—the new “Nausea” experience is more vivid, even somewhat disturbing, despite its squeaky clean veneer. The two options, then, are quite distinct, though equally assured of their gall.