There are some things that some musicians should not try, and attempting to cover a good summer song is one of them.
Aaron Carter’s ‘Surfin USA’, and Bombalurina’s ‘Itsy Bitsy Teenie Weenie Yellow Polka Dot Bikini’ are just some of the monstrosities that have been released, just because some artists have broken this rule.
But there has been the occasional exception. One of them is Pale Saints’ version of Nancy Sinatra’s ‘Kinky Love’, which appeared on their ‘Flesh Balloon’ EP.
‘Kinky Love’, on paper, could have suffered the same fate as other covers, by not giving the original version enough justice.
Not because Pale Saints were a poor band – far from it, as tracks like ‘Half-Life Remembered’ and ‘Sight of You’ showed the group’s fetish for unobtrusive experimentation, but because they were completely different to Sinatra.
While her sound was seductive and classy, Pale Saints’ tone was more distant – despite both acts having dream-pop undertones. The band was also predominately male, including their lead vocalist: Ian Mathers.
This gave the group two options: to record an intriguing cover that stayed true to the shoegazing genre, even if it did not quite work out, or to produce a version that departed from their original roots and modernised Sinatra’s classic.
They, unsurprisingly, went for the latter option and produced what was, almost, an exact replica of the original version.
But, in doing so, it retained the original version’s charm. If the group had overused an effects pedal, it would have rendered the song’s sexiness redundant.
By staying true to the original, they ensured that the teasing lyrics perfectly complemented the song’s sedated and relaxed feel.
And, because of that, it becomes an alternative summer song; as it does not become a stereotypically bouncy summer track, none of the subtleties associated with the track are lost.
From the wobbling effects and break to the unfairly derided Meriel Barham’s soothing and harmonious lead vocals, ‘Kinky Love’ perfectly encapsulates the feel of a lazy summer’s day.
It is the antithesis to the summer song, in essence; it does not need to be endlessly enthusiastic like The Beach Boys’ undisputed classic ‘I Get Around’, as this version is happily content with sunbathing in the park whilst eating strawberries.
You can see why the band went down this route.
‘Kinky Love’ had the jangly riffs and trippy production to keep the indie kids happy, while the sophistication associated with the original remained intact.
Pale Saints’ record label 4AD were also likely to have influenced the decision to produce a radio-friendly record, considering it was likely that they invested a fair bit of money in trying to ensure Pale Saints were regulars in the UK Singles Chart.
But this never happened, as the ‘Flesh Balloon’ EP stalled at Number 72 in July 1991.
It still remains one of the best alternative summer songs to have been released in the past 20 years, though, as well as being Pale Saints’ most mainstream and thoughtful track.
A band’s finest moment can, sometimes, come from the unlikeliest of sources.
And there is no denying that ‘Kinky Love’ does exactly that.