When is a cover song better than the original? Only you can decide. This week El Perro Del Mar takes on Lou Reed’s “Heavenly Arms.” MAGNET’s Ryan Burleson pulls the pin. Take cover!
When Lou Reed released Blue Mask in 1982, it was considered by many to be a return to form and a welcome escape from the excess of his mercurial output of the ’70s. Amid drug and alcohol abuse, that decade was for the most part spent giving fans everything and nothing they wanted, from the insular Berlin to the all-things-to-all-people-isms of Sally Can’t Dance. And let’s not forget 1975’s Metal Machine Noise, a double album of, well, what the title infers.
But tracks like “Heavenly Arms,” Blue Mask‘s final number, revealed a man grown weary of games. The song is incredibly straightforward and earnest, a far cry from the gimmicks Reed was beginning to be known for, which, had they kept up, could’ve eventually tarnished his legend considerably. Blue Mask isn’t as groundbreaking as anything the Velvet Underground produced with Reed at the helm, to be sure, but it’s far better than most of what he released in the decade prior. In this, as in all things, the relativity of the matter counts, especially when you’re talking about an icon like Reed.
Considering that Sweden’s Sarah Assbring sings about love and the loss of it on most, if not all, El Perro Del Mar tracks, “Heavenly Arms” was a perfect fit when it came time to record 2009’s Love Is Not Pop, her third album. And she absolutely nailed it, transforming the original’s instrumental simplicity into a more elaborate, Brill Building-type affair with the help of Studio’s Rasmus Haag. The production constantly surprises without diminishing the warmth at the heart of the song, enhancing and arguably improving on Reed’s idea.