Covered: “Touch Me I’m Sick”

Covered is a feature where we examine the merits of various cover songs, debating whether or not they capture the spirit and intent of the original, if the cover adds anything new, and whether or not it perhaps surpasses the original. If we fail on those counts, at the very least we may expose you to different versions of great songs you hadn’t heard before.

If you guessed that we selected this song for ulterior reasons, congratulations, you have seen through my ruse.  Today has been rather unpleasant, and any post published today should probably be reflective of that fact.  Inspiration eventually struck, as I remembered my favorite Mudhoney track, the delightfully scuzzy “Touch Me I’m Sick”.  It is certainly not the most adventurous pick, since their first hit is definitely their most well-known, but I have always loved the song’s ability to mine the common ground of Stooges-era punk with the abrasiveness and power of metal, providing the blueprint of what would become “grunge”.  Also, it is a hilariously ridiculously offensive song if you take it seriously, but you probably shouldn’t.

I had no idea if anyone covered this classic, but since it is a fairly easy song to learn as well as one that is ridiculously fun to play, I figured there was a good chance that a cover existed somewhere.  It turns out that Sonic Youth did an early cover of the song as part of a split single where Mudhoney returned the favor.  There is not much to recommend about Sonic Youth’s version beyond any mild curiosity one might have, aside from the mildly intriguing twist of having Kim Gordon deliver the fairly depraved lyrics, giving the song an unexpected feminist perspective in the process.  Otherwise, it is a fairly by-the-numbers take, with the band matching the shambolic punk attitude by barely playing the riff together after a cursory feedback-drenched intro.  The importance was more symbolic, as Sonic Youth deemed this young up-and-coming band worthy of attention, serving as another example of Sonic Youth’s willingness to embrace their role as a gatekeeper in the early days of when alternative music broke into the mainstream.

In the future, we will analyze Sonic Youth’s reinterpretation of an old classic that marked a better use of the band’s unique sensibility.  As for “Touch Me I’m Sick”, I would stick with the original, superior version.

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