There is nothing quite like taking on a really good song, as any karaoke aficionado will tell you. And even for the most successful artists, covering iconic songs is an irresistible pleasure.
However there is a real difference between drunkenly belting out the classics to a room of equally inebriated strangers, and setting down your own recording of someone else’s track. What’s even more difficult to do is to send that recording out into the world for everyone to hear, and inevitably judge against the original.
Which is why Sydney’s Wells have some serious balls – as well as some serious ears on them.
Grim, ambient and powerful like distant thunder, There Is A Light That Never Goes Out has never echoed with such melancholy as it does with Wells.
You may remember the band’s darkly dreamy take on Lana Del Rey’s Born To Die which blew us all away last year. The band have now taken on an enduring classic, a monster of a song in the shape of There Is A Light That Never Goes Out by The Smiths.
And once again, Wells’ version manages to reimagine the heart of the original through their own lens.
Pulse-like percussion sits as the heartbeat of the track, while muted electric guitars create a white noise static which underpins the whole like a windstorm in the distance. A harmonica takes on the lonesome melody and a epic bass line extols a sort of grim ambience.
Wells give the appearance of a stark, stripped arrangement, but the encompassing atmosphere is subtly built through careful layering of guitars and synths. Lead singer Alastair Cairns’ vocals may be eerily close to Morrissey’s original in terms of pitch and intonation, but Cairns’ delivery scales the melody with an apathy which fits this looming track.
Wells certainly aren’t the first band to take on The Smiths, but there does seem to be something about There Is A Light That Never Goes Out which holds to its own. The track is either possessed by the jealous spirit of Morrissey, or the original is simply too good to better.
From Dum Dum Girls to even Anberlin, few bands have really pushed beyond straight cover territory. Except maybe Skeleton Dick with their drunken, punked out interpretation (which can be found on their 2012 album Moist n’ Frothy, if you were wondering).
Which is why Wells’ take on this iconic song is well worth a listen. Pushing 80s alt-rock into a contemporary melancholic ambience, this version is too grim for flower waving.
Slowed down to somewhere between a solid drum beat and the anticipatory guitars, it’s enjoyably easy to become entranced by this reimagining of There Is A Light That Never Goes Out.