It’s the end of March–are you ready for it to be summer already? If you’d like to skip the blooming crocuses, flash freezes, and everything else that goes along with Mud Season (a.k.a., Spring), you can either book a ticket to Tucson or just put Britta Phillips‘ new cover of The Cars’ “Drive” on repeat.
Like much of Phillips’ music, from her work in the band Luna to the duo Dean & Britta (and arguably her vocals as the voice of Jem in the 180 (!!!) songs she recorded for the cartoon series “Jem & the Holograms”), “Drive” is the stuff of long cruises down the boulevard with the top down, warm nights and sunburns. Think of it as a superior update to Don Henley’s “Boys of Summer”… which, come to think of it, Phillips should also consider covering.
I’ve always been a fan of the original, which was released in 1984 and was The Cars’ biggest international hit. Phillips has kept much of the vibe and arrangement of The Cars’ version while also slowing it down and adding deep reverb to her lovely vocals. If the original sounded like a hybrid of Tangerine Dream and Roy Orbison, Phillips’ version is closer to a Mazzy Star-meets-Rhye mashup. It’s moody and it’s lush and if it’s not super innovative it’s also very hard to hate. For the record, I love it.
I have wondered, though, why an artist would cover a song if they’re not going to really change it in a personal way. But then I discovered that the original Cars version featured the vocals of the band’s bass player, Benjamin Orr. Phillips plays bass, too, which made me suspect that there’s may be some kind of international bass players’ secret list of Songs Sung by Bass Players floating around out there in the bass player darknet. If so, look for Britta Phillips to cover the tunes of Paul McCartney, Lemmy Kilmister, Geddy Lee, and Sting in the months to come. I’m looking forward to a dreamy, chilled-out version of “The Ace of Spades.”
Buzzy Jackson's newest book is "The Inspirational Atheist: Wise Words on the Wonder and Meaning of Life" (Penguin/Plume). She writes for the Boston Globe and on her own blog at BuzzyJackson.com. Buzzy lives in Boulder, Colorado and she believes that, some day, Nick Cave and PJ Harvey will get back together.
They just have to.