Blank Expressions


Heen says:

I have to be especially careful about what I’m going to say here. To start off with, I don’t want to give the impression I’m opposed to all cover versions of songs (or remakes of films), and it’s not my intention to say anything nasty about Lily Allen, even though I think she’s being led up the garden path to some as yet unspecified esplanade for lapidation purposes (and stones are already flying.)


The thing is, a few days ago Sheen and I were arguing about the song “Blank Expression”, originally recorded by The Specials in 1979 and covered almost thirty years later by Lily Allen. Me being an old-fashioned fundamentalist purist, my preferences lie with The Specials’ version. I find it gutsier, rawer, a bit rougher round the edges, so to speak. Lily Allen does a decent job, but I reckon her sassy cynical vocal style doesn’t fit the hard-done-to, offended innocence of the lyrics. And, I’m sorry, but the neo-techno arrangements sit horribly with the song’s ska rhythm.


Oh, I see, says the reader. Heen always prefers the original version. Well, no, actually. A good cover picks up the original and takes it somewhere else. The best cover I’ve ever heard of any song is Edu Lobo’s stunning version of “Hey Jude”, and I know you’re going to suspect Edu Lobo is on a par with Pancho Montalbán, but go on, Google it and try to listen to this song. You’ll never want to hear Paul McCartney’s voice again.


Sheen says:

As usual, Heen has decided to convert a harmless fraternal disagreement into a major controversy. He’ll be calling up his private army any day now, just to prove his point. It’s true we didn’t see eye to eye the other day about which version of “Blank Expression” is better but, to be quite honest, I think this song is, at best, mediocre, regardless of who’s singing it. I recklessly took the barefaced liberty of casually suggesting that Lily Allen’s version was just as good as the Specials’ and Heen took offence.


The production is neater and cleaner (I mean, come on, The Specials always sounded like they were rehearsing in somebody’s garage) and Lily has got a far more melodious, emotional voice than Terry Hall. End of story.


If singers want to do covers, OK, go for it, it’s no big deal. But what I can’t stand is when they re-record their old stuff 20 years later, trying pathetically to update it and appeal to a new, younger audience. Or worse still, when they record their songs in a foreign language which they obviously don’t speak.


Can you imagine Lily Allen singing LDN in Japanese? Nuff said.


PS. Soraya assures me Pimpinela have done a cover of “Blank Expression”. I think she’s drunk.



For your further perusal:  then go to “Hey Jude” at the bottom of the list. It’s only a snippet, I’m afraid, but you might get the idea.

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