I've just listened to a song on Spotify, We Are Gonna Be Friends. Frankly, I'm disgusted. Don't get me wrong at all, this isn't a dig at Bright Eyes (last time I checked, it wasn't still 2005), just check my charts. I actually believe that The People's Key is one of the best, and perhaps most underrated, albums of 2011. The problem with this song is its origin. For those that don't know, it is a cover of a song by The White Stripes.
When I was 14, I asked for White Blood Cells for Christmas from my parents, they duly obliged. I must have spent 4/5/6 months listening to nothing but this album, every single day. On a couple of occasions I even took it to school with me. Every single track on the album became familiar, I still remember the highlights: The Union Forever, Now Mary, Dead Leaves and the Dirty Ground.
As time went on and my tastes developed, I left The White Stripes behind (plus they started to release some awful albums, like the vastly annoying and hugely overrated Elephant) and it is safe to assume that if they were a band just starting out, I probably wouldn't give them the time of day. Maybe this is an oversight on my part? Somehow, though, the tracks from White Blood Cells remain ingrained in me. When I hear them it reminds me of a time when music was so simple to me, when everything was a whole lot simpler. Nothing on White Blood Cells is more simple than We're Going to Be Friends. It is, quite simply, an adorable track with no pretensions. As far as I'm aware there is no hidden meaning, no metaphors or sinister undertones. The White Stripes weren't like that. It is innocent and sweet, emotive music in its purest form.
The Bright Eyes version though, isn't. It's creepy, it's dark, vocally its abrupt and harsh. Conor Oberst's voice doesn't lend itself well to sweetness. He is the voice of the perennial under-achiever; the socially awkward misanthrope. This version just rips away the heart of the original track. A shame, really. It could have been brilliant.
To be fair to the band though, it is a song for charity, and it had to be 'school themed'. But they could have chosen something else. Imagine Bright Eyes covering Pink Floyd's Another Brick in the Wall? Now I would pay for that.