ARTIST: HANDSOME YOUNG LADIES
TITLE: WE GOT IT COVERED
LABEL: ALARM CLOCK REVOLUTION
WORDS: CARA MULLEN
Hailing from Western New York, Handsome Young Ladies aren’t your average cover band. Their debut album, aptly titled ‘We Got It Covered’, is an ensemble of disco classics and 80s pop hits that have been twisted up and given a contemporary rock re-vamp.
First track in – a reworking of Earth, Wind & Fire’s classic ‘September’ – and you’d be forgiven for mistaking the vocals for fellow New Yorker, Daryl Palumbo of Glassjaw. The first thing to note about Handsome Young Ladies is vocalist Sam Swanson’s incredible vocal range. Where they may fall short instrumentally, Swanson keeps them hoisted up with his vocal cords.
The choices of songs for this album were indubitably well thought-out. It’s packed with songs that make you feel nostalgic, even if you were born long after they originally came out. ‘Everybody Wants to Rule the World’ is a song that already sparks a strange kind of melancholy fire in hearts, but Handsome Young Ladies built on that, adding a sense of depth and bringing the basic chords to life with so much emotion in the vocals.
A brave decision was the one to cover ‘Another One Bites the Dust’ by Queen; unfortunately, they didn’t quite get it right. It’s undeniably the worst track of the collection, but can you ever really get a Queen cover right?
“an ensemble of disco classics and 80s pop hits that have been twisted up and given a contemporary rock re-vamp“
Handsome Young Ladies really did manage to make this collection of songs their own, and that fact is particularly prominent in ‘Time After Time’. The Cyndi Lauper track is almost unrecognisable in this offering. It’s been given new life while keeping the 80s edge; stripped of its former cheese, this version could easily be mistaken for an original song if heard on a current radio station.
‘Lovefool’ was a possibly unrealised challenge for the band, as having already been covered by New Found Glory on their ‘From the Screen to Your Stereo Pt.2’ album, there was a lot to live up to in covering an already superb Cardigan’s classic.
When Adam Lazzara of Taking Back Sunday lent his vocals on New Found Glory’s version, it had already secured itself as one of the best rock covers out there. The vocals on this version, however, do seriously rival those of Lazzara. The harmonising before the breakdown was a nice touch, although the breakdown itself will be underwhelming to those who are well-versed in the New Found Glory version.
“This set of classics will make you feel warm inside “
Instrumentally, this album feels a bit elementary, with sluggish and low-fi sounding guitars, other than in ‘Roxanne’ which seems to take the standard up a notch. It’s impossible to not mention the vocals on this track, as Swanson showcases a rougher edge at points and overall more versatility.
Closing track, ‘Bennie and the Jets’ is a deflating end to an otherwise high-voltage album; the slower tempo is not a particularly well-fitting addition to the collection.
All-in-all, ‘We Got It Covered’ is a great covers album. It’s surprising that these guys haven’t yet turned their hand to making original music. This set of classics will make you feel warm inside and is something that listeners of all ages will be able to appreciate. The musicianship could use some work, but the vocals are incredible and Handsome Young Ladies certainly know how to make a song their own.
They’ve got a good thing going in what they do.