There are some artists, who have done so many covers, that would need a whole blogging series dedicated to them.
Lush is one of them.
The quantity of cover versions nearly reached double figures, in the form of demos and b-sides, and their pattern of quality represented their musical journey.
Even if their earlier material was far from perfect, they became nifty in their later years.
And, as it was recorded during the middle of their career, ‘Rupert the Bear’ represented a turning point.
At first, and perhaps unfairly, Lush seemed to be pigeonholed as a student band.
You could argue that there was an air of pretension surrounding them, while lacking substance at times. Their output could be variable in quality, too.
For instance, their version of Wire’s ‘Outdoor Miner’ (which appeared as a b-side of 1992’s ‘For Love’) was a safe choice, but it added depth to the original. There was talent and skill; it was too well crafted for it to be a fluke.
Others, however, were less impressive. Their version of Dennis Wilson’s ‘Fallin in Love’ (a b-side of 1991’s ‘Nothing Natural’) was dull and lacked inspiration.
Meanwhile, ‘Chirpy Chirpy Cheep Cheep’ (a track on the ‘Alvin Lives (In Leeds)’ compilation in 1990 for the Anti-Poll Tax Campaign) was always going to be a difficult one.
It avoided the classic mistake of not playing it straight but, like the original, it was a bit naff.
By the time their second album, ‘Split’, was released in 1994, there were signs of progression.
Gist’s ‘Love at First Sight’ (a b-side on ‘Hypocrite’) didn’t sparkle, but ‘Rupert the Bear’ had lots of nice touches. It was twee, without sounding kitsch, and felt teasing.
They played it too safe – it was crying out for a punk-pop vibe and some heavy guitars, in particular – but you could appreciate what they were trying to do. At the very least, there was some sincerity.
In early 1996, though, Lush had cracked it.
In ‘Lovelife’, they had found the consistency that was lacking in their previous two albums.
Their versions of the Zounds’ ‘Demystification’ (a b-side of ‘Single Girl’), The Rubinoos’ ‘I Wanna Be Your Girlfriend’ (which appeared on the 7” of ‘Ladykillers’) and The Magnetic Fields’ ‘I Have the Moon’ (yep, you’ve guessed it, it was a b-side of ‘500’) had the right mixture of garage pop and shoegaze.
Furthermore, a cover of Elvis Costello’s ‘All that Useless Beauty’ (which appeared on Costello’s ‘Distorted Angel’ EP) was thoughtful and did the original justice.
They finally sounded like they were comfortable in their own skin and the poppier covers were also punchy.
‘Rupert the Bear’ wasn’t their finest moment and, to be quite frank, it was never going to be that way.
Take ‘Hypocrite’, for example, which is probably their finest recording. It was simple and sharp, while having layers and multiple choruses.
Their version of Jackie Lee’s theme music was never going to have the complexion of ‘Hypocrite’; after all, you can’t recreate a watercolour painting with crayons.
It isn’t that kind of song to be a career highlight, but Lush covered that song with dignity.
They didn’t take go down the ironic or comedy route and, to a certain extent, they took it seriously.
As with all of their covers, even if they didn’t get it right, they always took something similar from the original, while adding something new to it.
They deserved some sort of credit for that; a lot more than they got, anyway.
(NB: The version on the embedded clip doesn’t start until 0:50; it’s just the band talking at the beginning.)