Perhaps it’s no surprise that, in 2020, many artists have indulged in the healing power of a good cover song. Marika Hackman released a dreamy LP of them, while Phoebe Bridgers and Maggie Rogers celebrated the US election with a rendition of the Goo Goo Dolls’ angsty rock staple, Iris. But relatively unknown Irish singer-songwriter Rosie Carney has taken the biggest leap yet, with a full cover of Radiohead’s 1995 masterstroke The Bends.
Like many new artists at a crucial point in their career, 23-year-old Carney was devastated at the beginning of 2020 when her plans to record and tour fell away. She relapsed into depression, and moved back to her childhood home, where her Radiohead covers began taking shape. The Bends itself is the sound of a twentysomething existential crisis, recorded when Radiohead were largely known only as the band who made Creep. Re-recorded in Carney’s bedroom, it becomes celestial, downtempo indie-folk. She homes in on the moments of anxiety and loneliness: at its finest, as on the deep sigh of Bullet Proof ... I Wish I Was, Carney finds magic in minimalism.
If what draws you to The Bends is its prickly, restless anger, this take on the album will not be for you. Carney makes it soothing and smooth; Radiohead fans may not be interested in easy-listening versions of Just, nor Street Spirit (Fade Out). But, while not every cover is a hit, there are points on the album that feel gutsy and fresh. Carney’s ghostly layered vocals singing the grunge-indebted Sulk is the album’s spine-chilling moment: evocative of the song’s history, but still something decisively new.