New! Now! is Fontaines DC‘s fantastically idiosyncratic take on Nick Drake’s wispy and ethereal ‘Cello Song. The Dubliners (DC = Dublin City, see?) grab Nick Drake’s original by its sullen, woollen coattails and pour a bucketful of distortion over a pounding, punishing backbeat and reimagine the song as a shit-kicking gutterpunk bruiser of a tune. It’s quite fantastic; unique, original and exactly how every band should approach attempting to cover the uncoverable.
Fontaines DC – ‘Cello Song
A lone cello creeps in, sounding like a ghost ship’s foghorn out in some woebegone ocean or other, clattering percussion rustles and rattles its way into an unforgiving hucklebuck beat, a caterwauling string section drags its heels across the soundscape and haunting/haunted aah-ah-ah vocals entwine themselves around the call and response guitar riffs to magic up an unholy and thrilling racket. Nick Drake does this bit too, but whereas his is otherworldly and mysterious, Fontaines DC give off seriously heavy don’t-look-’em-in-the-eyes vibes. Truly terrifying.
The vocals proper arrive, Grian’s Irish brogue undiluted and unforgiving and all the more powerful for it. The guitars, sounding like up-the-dial radio static turned up to 10, whip up a frenzy of controlled feedback and electric twang, menacing and panther-like, somewhere between the electrified slink of Hendrix’s Third Stone From The Sun and gentle sleep of Kevin Shields at his woozy, somnambulistic best; head music and just as effective as a mood-altering stimulant. Throughout it all, the titular cello. Those jarring, jagged strings scratch and scrape at scabrous skin, John Cale in the Velvets, if the Velvets had been born in Dublin 30 years later to Nick Drake-loving parents.
Taken from The Endless Coloured Ways, a forthcoming reimagining of Nick Drake’s back catalogue by all manner of contemporary artists (Philip Selway, Craig Armstrong & Self Esteem, Karine Polwart & Kris Drever) Fontaines DC’s thrilling cover has set the mark by which all other cover versions – Drake’s or otherwise – will now be measured.
‘Ignore the original recording of Nick’s, and reinvent the song in your own unique style,’ the bands were briefed. Fontaines DC have passed the test with flying colours. Turn the volume up and stick it on repeat.
Here’s Nick Drake’s original. Kinda meh now, isn’t it?!
Nick Drake – ‘Cello Song