35 Nation Army

by theTramp

Earlier this month, Moth and Anise took a look at the latest pop releases, including Marcus Collins’ version of The White Stripes Seven Nation Army. Moth described it thusly: “Collins’s version is a thin streak of reggae-scented piss compared to the majestic White Stripes original”. Harsh words that got me a-thinkin’; I wonder who else has covered it?
Fired by curiosity and a love of cover versions I have listened my way through more than 20 covers of this song to provide you with five versions that I think are the most interesting and worth your time. If you have your own personal favourite that isn’t on this list please let us know what it is in the comments, or tweet your favourite @MostlyFilm.

Ben L’Oncle

Let us start with Ben L’Oncle’s version. Now Ben has every right to ask the X-Factor people for a few pence because Marcus Collins is effectively covering his cover of this song from his album Ben L’Oncle Soul. The difference being that Ben’s version is much better and his video is a few thousand times better than the low rent X-Factor creepy hands video. Ben’s video is set in a Laundromat, affectionately homages The White Stripes video and features a cardboard cut-out Ben zipping about and playing various instruments. In short, it’s a good video, they spent a few pence on it and it’s not a bad cover either, although it lacks the punch and energy that makes the original so fantastic.

Nostalgia 77

Next up, and my personal favourite, is Nostalgia 77 featuring Alice Russell from their album Tru Thoughts Covers. It is quite possible that you have heard this version somewhere before and not realised who or what it was. It is certainly the sort of cover I would expect a bar with its finger on the cool musical pulse to play as background music. This is pure soul funk and it is wonderful; with all the punch and energy of the original and yet, like all great covers, stands on its own. Sadly there’s no video but it is worth listening to for all that and available to download on iTunes too (a bargain at 79p). The rest of the albums not bad either and Alice Russell has a fantastic voice.

Muzik For The Kitchen

My third selection features for curiosity value and not much more really. Described as a “swinging version” this is really more music hall than swing. Four chaps with top hats in a low rent video strum and play their strings, accordions and drums front of stage to a surprisingly small audience (oh ok, not that surprising). They’re known as MFTK or music for the kitchen and for cover lovers and collectors of cover curiosities this version should amuse. They strike me as a group you may see busking to a crowd at Columbia Road market one Sunday and who might even tempt you to buy their CD.

The Twang

My fourth pick was a tough one. I was deeply tempted to present you with Damien Rice’s violent violin/cello version of the song – not for tinnitus sufferers. Or the curious and mostly dreadful Flaming Lips version; warning it is possible that they were possessed by a renegade sociopathic Muppet character when they covered this. Instead I have opted for The Twang’s version.

The Twang, the link reliably informs me, is a cover album of numerous pop classics in a country style. I love it, but I do have a weakness for oddities and Bluegrass. Sadly this doesn’t appear to be available on iTunes; however there is a Bluegrass tribute from the Pickin’ On The Whitestripes: a bluegrass tribute album which is certainly fun, but not quite as great as this. I particularly like the way it kicks up a gear about 2 minutes in. Listen up American Idol, if you want Scotty to have a hit in the UK this could be the way in. UK X-Factor, sadly I don’t think Marcus Collins’ will make it in the US with his version.

Kimberly Nichole

My fifth and I promise final pick is by Kimberly Nichole, billed as the “rock ballerina”. This is a fairly straight cover by a female vocalist I was hitherto unaware of but thanks to a proliferation of covers, all of which seem to be on YouTube, is now on my watch list. She has a good voice, an interesting look and if you have the time and inclination to do listen to her version of Crazy and/or Dirty Diana. But I digress. Why did I pick her version of Seven Nation Army? Well she has a great voice and hearing a strong female vocalist have fun with the song is interesting in itself.

Here she is looking like Donna Summer as she sings live, and here is a better version for listening to.

For anyone who remains curious artists versions that I did not choose as favoured picks include Kate Nash, Audioslave, Kelly Clarkson, The Dynamics (a genuine attempt at a reggae version, sadly this track really doesn’t lend itself to reggae), Hard-Fi and Lee Mead – who manages a surprisingly good version of it truth be told. And to think, I thought his was an audience of grandmothers.

4 thoughts on “35 Nation Army

  1. Don’t know if they came up in your research, but back in the White Stripes’ heyday there was a tribute band doing the rounds which played all their songs in a Jamaican dub stylee. They were called the Red Stripes. Having seen them live, I can confirm that the name was the best thing about them,

  2. Yeah, that is pretty terrible. Poor Ben L’Oncle though. I am sad the machine took his version of the song away, even if they did pay for it.

  3. The red stripes there have had me in fits of giggles. Fantastic!

    Anise – the beat boxer isn’t bad, although they take a while to warm up.

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