Shins :: Strange Powers (Magnetic Fields Cover)


Over the years we have often asked the question: when does a cover trump the artists original vision? While I love the Magnetic Fields original, off Holiday, this Shins (studio) version has me asking myself that very question. Weigh in below in the comments.

Also: Curious if are you seeing Magnetic Fields’ Distortion popping up on many year-end lists…

MP3: The Shins :: Strange Powers (Magnetic Fields Cover)
MP3: The Magnetic Fields :: Strange Powers
Amazon: The Magnetic Fields – Holiday

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23 thoughts on “Shins :: Strange Powers (Magnetic Fields Cover)

  1. Nirvana- Where Did You Sleep Last Night?
    Johnny Cash – Hurt
    Beach Boys – Sloop John B (sort of a cover)

    are the three that come to mind for me.

  2. The Jose Gonzalez cover of Heartbeats by the Knife is arguably better than the original. I tend to think they’re equals, but it seems that many people prefer the cover.

  3. I would argue that Kelly Hogan’s version of “Papa Was A Rodeo” is also better than the Magnetic Fields’ original.

  4. I would point out that this isn’t the first time that The Shins have done a cover that outshined the original. Their quasi-country version of The Postal Service’s “We Will Become Silhouettes” is miles better than the original in my opinion.

  5. I agree that Kelly Hogan’s version of Papa Was a Rodeo is better than the original. I also like Neko Case’s “Christmas Card from a Hooker” better than Tom Waits’ original.

  6. I have to disagree. I don’t think the Shins bring out Merritt’s humor as well as the Little Master. Also, how can not love the sheer analogyness of the original, especially with those brittle guitar loops with the bluesy bending in the chorus–probably the only string bending in the entire Fields catalog.

    Probably cause I’ve seen them do “Papa Was a Rodeo” live so many times, I can’t help but think of it as Stephin’s signature song (especially when Shirley comes in on the last chorus), although Kelly Hogan’s is darn good, much better than Peter Gabriel’s “Book of Love.”

    I have a sneaking suspicion that “Distortion” might get hosed this year like “i” did, which are both full of impeccable songwriting.

    Tom still trumps Neko.

    Knife over Jose.

    Covers that attain All Along the Watchtower status? Hmmmm, off the top of my head, maybe:

    Twist and Shout
    You Ain’t Goin’ Nowhere
    Ballad of the Snow Leopard and the Tanqueray Cowboy
    Ruby, Don’t Take Your Love to Town
    What’s So Funny about Peace, Love and Understanding?
    Another Girl, Another Planet
    Mr. Pharmacist
    I’ve Been Everywhere
    Head On
    Camper Van’s version of Interstellar Overdrive (longstanding debate)
    TV on the Radio’s Mr Grieves is also phenomenal
    Hey Joe

  7. This one is a toss-up. I do prefer Arcade Fire’s version of The Magnetic Fields’ “Born on a Train”. Ryan Adams’ cover of “Wonderwall” has been mentioned as another example. Also, and I’ll probably get ripped for this, but I might prefer The Mother Hips’ cover of “Sunday Morning Comin’ Down” over any Cash or Kristopherson rendition. What about The Byrds’ cover of “Mr. Tambourine Man”?

  8. Wow! This is great, thanks for posting.

    It is probably my favorite Magnetic Fields song (though “Doesn’t Matter When We’re Dancing” was the first dance at my wedding, so it holds a special place for me) and The Shins close-cover of it is really special.

    This is going to get a lot of play this weekend!

  9. Oh, joy! Reminds me that even besides the songwriting he has that awesome voice that can bend in Ray D and Brian W ways. (Make friends with the single James! Stay in circulation.) My other wish is that the Shins would do this great live in the studio thing modeled after the Small Faces/Who/Move BBC sessions.

  10. The problem with the original “Strange Powers” is the fucking cowbell. I haven’t been able to enjoy the song since I noticed how aggressively annoying that sound is.

  11. Some fun and memorable covers better than the original:

    Goldfinger’s cover of Bad Company’s Feel Like Makin’ Love
    Chris Cornell’s cover of Michael Jackson’s Billie Jean
    The White Stripes’ cover of Dolly Parton’s Jolene
    The Polyphonic Spree’s cover of The Blues Image’s Ride Captain Ride
    The Get Up Kids’ cover of The Pixies’ Alec Eiffel
    Devotchka’s cover of Venus in Furs (maybe not better than the original, but excellent in its own right)

    And I’d never heard TV On the Radio’s cover of Mr. Grieves … thanks for alerting me! I grabbed it off of I Guess I’m Floating (19 November 2007). Not better than the original Pixies, but cool. I love when TVOTR unplugs.

  12. What about the two Roses’ version of The Book of Love (Mag Fields) on youtube. Can’t say it is better but it is as good a take as any. Put it this way – if it were my song, I’d be chuffed with what Rose & Rose have done.

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