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Covers and cubism

People don’t always get cubist art thinking it’s just a jumble of images deliberately goofy like a Potato Head gone wrong. But one of the original ideas was to show different perspectives at the same time; it kinda developed out of Muybridge and early motion picture attempts.

Duchamp's "Nude Descending a Staircase"

Painting time itself, like this Duchamp painting of someone walking down stairs.

This misunderstanding of cubist art sometimes applies to self-proclaimed cubist painters themselves, ilke Kasimir Malevich who in his early days was a complete poser, a band-wagon–jumper who tried to make cubist paintings without grokking the purpose so it looked more like Max Headroom–style polygon images that still were only locked in one moment of time like any old normal portrait but uglier. Once he abandonded that misguided path he went onto make groundbreaking concretist paintings that I love so learn the lesson kids: do your own thing.

I’m a fan of cover songs because I see them as additive; a sparse echoing haunting arrangement of “Total Eclipse of the Heart” gets all the more richer because of how Jim Steinman’s bombastic version still also exists. A cover evokes the original and a good cover also makes it so that the original from then on also is enriched with the sentiments of the cover.

“Girls just wanna have fun” have had so many takes over the years and now when I hear one version I hear ‘em all. From Hazard’s nostalgic bittersweetly celebratory stance against patriarchy, through Lauper’s party “set us free” anthem, through Greg Haswell’s haunting cry of frustration over lack of connection.

I’m writing this because I just saw Ghost’s version of “Jesus He Knows Me”. Great song but it’s great because it has the context of Genesis’ pitch perfect portrayal of mid-80s televangelist hypocrisy. On its own, the new video comes across more like “the counterculture and club scene is just full of sin; sex and drugs are bad(?), and the punk goth kids are Christian priests in disguise(??)”, almost comes across a li’l homophobic, whereas the original song and video was a teardown of the entire “prosperity theology” scam along with a more class-conscious critique and with allusions to specific, contemporary events.

The song needs the orginal to give the full context of the scream of rage that it actually is, but since covers are additive like facets on a gem or perspectives in a cubist painting, having both versions makes both versions better.

So with that in mind (what the original had that’s gone in the new take), the new version also adds something. It comes across more as a man struggling with what he really wants. The version with Phil Collins unveilos the televangelists in all their smugness and comes across as totally deliberate; the Ghost version adds a sense of how utterly lost they really are.

Also, musically it kicks.