Ever wasted hours of your life watching barely audible live videos of your favourite bands mauling someone else's song on YouTube? Or maybe The Onion’s AV Undercover series, which often veers from the sublime to the outright car wreck in the space of a week? Perhaps you’ve just drunkenly mullered the odd track at karaoke? Us too. We love a good cover (and even the occasional shit one). Here, members of Team 405 share a few favourites…

Chris McDonald

Cover versions are very difficult to get right. You only have to look at the barrage of misjudged ones, where a band or artist will have the incredible brainstorm, "Hey! I have an idea: let's take a famous pop song and make it heavy/fast/punk/ska!"

Just say no, kids.

Sometimes covers can work without a band or artist even adding their own slant to a song. Often just seeing a good band playing a great, underrated or forgotten song is enough to make the cover worthwhile. Certainly the sight of The Dillinger Escape Plan playing a totally straight live version of Van Halen's 'Hot For Teacher' made my life a little brighter.

This is by no means my definitive list, so please hold back your "but what about Hendrix's 'All Along The Watchtower'?"-type whines. These are just songs that spring to mind when I think of excellent covers, each with their own merits and talking points.

The Dismemberment Plan – 'Crush' Originally by Jennifer Paige

A lot of great pop music has a darkened heart lurking beneath the surface of its sugary melodies. But Jennifer Paige's 1998 bubblegum pop hit, a teen tale of taking things slow with a potential new beau, is pure MTV – 100% harmless fluff.

What Washington DC's Dismemberment Plan did on their split EP with Seattle band Juno was to turn it into something far more sinister sounding. This version is slow and scary, all minor key guitar twangs and ominous keyboards. It turns what was a minor teen dilemma into something approaching a stalker’s anthem and is all the better for it.

Ben Folds – 'Say Yes' Originally by Elliott Smith

This was done for The Onion’s AV Club Undercover video series, in which artists visit the satirical newsgob's offices to record a cover from a list of 25 songs (well worth checking out, by the way).

It is well-documented the brief friendship that Ben Folds and Elliott Smith shared, and the tribute Folds paid after Smith's death. Here, the song is transposed from acoustic guitar to electric piano, but remains almost exactly the same in tone and delivery. It's a beautiful pop song about yearning for a girl's continued affections the morning after a liaison – one of Smith's finest. Folds does it justice easily.

The Polyphonic Spree – 'Love My Way'
Originally by The Psychedelic Furs

This 1982 new wave hit is a favourite of mine, and has been covered quite a few times. The likes of emo band MineralWeezer, 90s stodge-rock proponents Live and even bloody Korn have had a go at it.

This version is my favourite though (and I'm a MASSIVE Mineral fan). Having the slightly cultish, batshit-mental 357-legged beast that is The Polyphonic Spree do it affords the song a sense of fun that other versions lack. The original is a lovely, touching singalong in robotic 80s clothing. This version manages to take it to its logical conclusion: a Jim Jones-led campfire singsong fuelled on spiked Kool-Aid.

Hot 8 Brass Band – 'Sexual Healing'
Originally by Marvin Gaye

Never mess with the classics, they say. Normally I'd be inclined to agree, but listen to this version of Marvin Gaye's Sexual Healing and I guarantee you will be won over by its charm.

Essentially just a group of dudes playing the song on brass and drums, Hot 8 transform Gaye's paean to boffing into a street party. It reminds me of being mesmerised by a street brass band playing Ary Barroso's 'Aquarela do Brasil' in Barcelona, compelling everyone to dance along with them – even us pasty northern Europeans. Play this at a party and anyone that doesn't dance and sing is clearly missing the 'fun' part of their brain.

Beck – 'Everybody's Gotta Learn Sometime'
Originally by The Korgis

For me, this one's a bit of a no-brainer. Not only is it the concluding song on one of my favourite films, but also has the most personal resonance of the songs listed.

The original isn't a classic by any stretch, but this is really quite beautiful. Oddly, the recording on Beck's version actually makes it sound as though it pre-dates The Korgis’ 1980 single, sounding like something from the mid-70s. The song itself is actually quite simple and repetitive, but all the more insistent for it. It's the tone and feeling in the delivery that makes it work so well.

Elliott Smith – 'Thirteen'
Originally by Big Star

Elliott Smith crops up again, but this time as performer. And again we return to the concept of darkness hiding in the words of pop music.

This is a simple, sweet childhood love story, but one where the protagonist winds up asking, "Would you be an outlaw for my love?" And though this cover is not a major departure from the original, what sets it apart is the fragility of Smith's vocal (always his strongest asset). With the arrangement stripped to the barest of bones, Smith carries the song along a delicate falsetto whisper. In the performance video linked here, this is even more noticeable due to the poor sound quality muffling the guitar to near inaudible levels.

Mogwai – 'Don’t Cry'
Originally by Guns N’ Roses

The first album I ever bought was a tape of Guns N' Roses' Use Your Illusion I from Woolworths on my 9th birthday. My sister and I were massive fans of the band and I damn well near wore out that tape. I remember singing along to the video of 'Don’t Cry' quite a bit, and I still know the lyrics word-for-word.

Mogwai performed this cover for a John Peel session in 1998 (note Peel's "I've never heard the original" comment at the end – so indie). A surprisingly faithful version, albeit more delicate and less bombastic vocally; I won’t even mark Stuart Braithwaite down for getting the words wrong because it’s brilliant.