"That song isn't mine anymore," answered Trent Reznor, when asked about Johnny Cash's version of his song 'Hurt', noting that the cover is "different, but every bit as pure."

'Hurt', and its accompanying music video, defined Cash and the latter stage of his career for a portion of his fans removed by a generation, and from the immediate impact of his work. Rather than seeing him as the hard drinking, barbiturate chewing, country outlaw, as their parents had, they instead witnessed the bitterly regretful, achingly frail and close to death 'Man in Black', in a moment of rare intimacy. His cover of 'Hurt', originally from the 1995 Nine Inch Nails album The Downward Spiral, eerily mapped out its covering artists' life and subsequent reflection, and sounded just as significant to Cash as it was to a Reznor in the throes of depression, addiction and pain.

"Different, but every bit as pure" should perhaps be the mission statement of every cover. To honour the origins and the meaning of a song, and to make it your own so as to avoid mimicry and copyright law in equal measure. Cash's warmly plucked ballad sounds a million miles away from Reznor's cold and mechanical original, swapping out the electronic atmospherics with a different tone and genre entirely, but retaining the basic structure and recurring three-note melody. Cash sounds like he's inviting us in and Reznor like he's pushing us away.

Sometimes the cover is better than track it covers, the most regularly cited being Hendrix's version of Dylan's 'All Along the Watchtower', with its colossal reimagining of the original Dylan-throwaway serving to update it for the hippies, soon to have the 1970's breathing down their necks, and instil into it an urgency and vitality. That's not to say Dylan's version is any less essential, but sometimes a cover version just finds a new home.

With this playlist I'm essentially trying to identify and bring together cover songs that have done just this, as well as those that bring new meaning to a song, and also those that are simply straight-up bangers.

Spell - 'Down From Dover'
(Originally by Dolly Parton)

Spell only ever made one album, 1993's Seasons in the Sun, a collaboration between Rose McDowall (of Strawberry Switchblade) and experimental musician Boyd Rice (of NON). Dolly Parton's song tells of a teenage pregnancy, a turbulent relationship, and an eventual stillborn, and early on in her career demonstrated an eye for crystal clear detail. In the hands of Spell, who shot through their sole album themes of the occult, hell and death, becomes notably darker and lent a sense of the macabre, but seems more hopeful than Parton's, with expansive synthesisers laid over everything. The central narrative, of a young girl waiting for her lover to come down from Dover (or Denver in the Spell version) is here enhanced through the instrumentation, and additionally by the call and response interaction between the voices of McDowall and Rice, adding a male perspective not present in the original, and adding an extra dimension of tragedy with both sides of the co-dependence now explored.


Tricky - 'Black Steel'
(Originally by Public Enemy)

Laying the politically charged central phrase of Public Enemy's 'Black Steel in the Hour of Chaos' out over a mechanical tribal rhythm and heavily distorted guitars, and swapping Chuck D's snarl out for Martina Topley Bird's rich singing voice, Tricky's cover fleshes out the skeletal basics of the original without sacrificing any of the urgency or focus. Where the original Bomb Squad production dealt in a fairly minimal repeating twinkling piano sample, Tricky instead envisions immersive depth through drum fills and nirvana-esque guitars. Largely removing anything resembling rap music, the cover brings the message of revolution and rebellion to a new audience, like a disciple spreading the word as opposed to the divine preacher's word.


R.E.M - 'Pale Blue Eyes'
(Originally by The Velvet Underground)

Back when Michael Stipe had luscious, luscious hair, R.E.M started doing regular covers, and the idea permeated throughout the band's career. Versions of songs by Pylon, Leonard Cohen and Mission of Burma all bare the distinctive twang and Stipe's arching vocals, but few work as well as this cover of the gentle Velvet Underground ballad 'Pale Blue Eyes'. Both bands could, at some point, have staked a claim of being the best in the world, and in 1984 R.E.M had just released 'Reckoning', perhaps their best record after 'Murmur', and so were operating here at full creative power. With Peter Buck's signature guitar jangle giving the original melody a light country vibe, the track is reimagined as something that wouldn't sound out of place at a rodeo or barn dance.


The xx - 'You Got The Love'
(Originally by Candi Stanton)

A cover of a cover of a remix, The XX's version of Candi Stanton and The Source's dance classic 'You Got The Love' borrows more heavily from Florence and The Machine's uber-popular reworking than the original. By lifting the harp arrangement, and sampling Florence Welch's voice, The XX reimagines the song in garage mode, with a minimal polyrhythmic beat and a fractured vocal. More interested in silence than Florence's expressive chaotic theatre, the band strips the track down to bare bones and reworks it as introspective, burial-esque rainy day bus-ride music.


Roisin Murphy - 'Slave To Love'
(Originally by Bryan Ferry)

Roisin Murphy and Roxy Music's Bryan Ferry are both artists preoccupied with the outer reaches of pop music. Comprising elements of sophisticated glam, proto new-wave and flings with the avant-garde, Roxy Music laid foundations that would support Talking Heads and Lady Gaga in equal measure. The 'artpop' title of Gaga's third album being a not-so-subtle nod to the Eno featuring project. Likewise, Roisin Murphy flirts with the same line between pop and more abstract sounds, her debut solo album Ruby Blue being produced by experimental musician Matthew Herbert. Murphy's cover of 'Slave to Love', originally a semi-cheesy synth and guitar ballad drenched in romantic angst, darkens the tone, deconstructs the song to takes away an electronic motif hidden in the mix, building around it a track more S&M than Ferry's TLC.


Sid Vicious - 'My Way'
(Originally by Frank Sinatra)

Singing the entire first verse in a faux-croon before launching into a speed-punk rhythm and a snarl at the first chorus, Vicious' foul-mouthed love letter to debauchery captures the idea of the movement he represented in one short track. Weaving through it orchestral support, composer Simon Jeffes (Of Penguin Cafe Orchestra) adds a layer of drama, and as the song races to its conclusion, the accompaniment becomes more severe, sharp and atonal, before everything dissolves into screams and gunshots.


Cat Power - 'Rambling Woman'
(Originally by Hank Williams)

Cat Power's dramatic take on Hank Williams' early country milestone sounds like wind rolling across the desert. With sweeping, echo-soaked instrumentation Power rearranges the lyrics and completely transforms the atmosphere, substituting Williams' coy apology for a grand assessment of her own reluctance towards commitment. Taken from Jukebox, a hit and miss covers albums, Power's gender reassigned version stands out for its lush textures and rich layering. Caught somewhere between regret and relief, the song details the fear of intimacy experienced by its protagonist and argues that it is just the way that god made them, and not an aversion towards love. Such a grand statement deserves a suitably grand tone, and so Power lets it all roll over us in big waves of reverb-laden electric piano, and shimmering guitars.


Vanilla Fudge - 'You Keep Me Hanging On'
(Originally by The Supremes)

Me and your dad and his mates have formed a covers band; see above for details.


Saint Etienne - 'Only Love Can Break Your Heart'
(Originally by Neil Young)

Saint Etienne's Balearic-tinged reimagining of Neil Young's After the Gold Rush highlight 'Only Love Can Break Your Heart' sees acoustic led proto-folk-rock translated into the language of dance music. It quickly became the best thing Saint Etienne ever did.


Grey Matter - 'I am the Walrus'
(Originally by The Beatles)

The covers market has, over time, become massively oversaturated with Beatles reinterpretations, and almost everyone from The Arctic Monkeys to Zwan has, at some point, tried their hand. Quite often these covers are reluctant to drastically alter the original sacred texts, and perhaps lean more towards honouring the legacy as opposed to reimagining the material. However, DC Hardcore band Grey Matter, of Ian MacKaye's Dischord Records, here take one of the Beatles' most outwardly odd songs and strip it down for parts, before rebuilding it as an angry skate-punk hymn. Closer to Black Flag than it is the Beatles; Grey Matter's version rejects the knowing quirk of the original, while still paying homage to the tongue-in-cheek lyrical playfulness.


Alien Ant Farm - 'Smooth Criminal'
(Originally by Michael Jackson)

Cast your mind back to those days spent aimlessly flicking through the mid-300s on noughties-era Sky, eventually settling on Kerrang, or Scuzz, and some sort of countdown. Remember the video? There's a monkey, and the singer's got a little shaved line down the centre of his head, and there's a boxing ring of some sort and they all lean forward, and the bassist's bass is about twice the size of a normal bass. Yeah, that's the one, and don't lie to me, because I know you secretly rate it, even if you won't admit it, because alt-metal is obviously painfully un-cool, and you listen to obscure Bandcamp gems and bump indie-electronic on twitter to 5000 music-biz followers.


Kitebase - 'Something I Can Never Have'
(Originally by Nine Inch Nails)

Kitebase's cover of the stirring Pretty Hate Machine deep cut 'Something I Can Never Have' stretches out the original's atmospheric tone and injects a slow-burning vocal motif that takes 7 minutes to fully unfold. Tackling Reznor's synthesiser-lead murk with two bass guitars and a layer of distortion, Kendra Frost and Ayşe Hassan channel the original through a chamber of caustic textures and ghostly voices, to add their own distinctive low-end stomp.


Faith No More - 'Easy'
(Originally by The Commodores)

Not so much for the song, more the context it appears in. Coming in as the closing song on Faith No More's erratic Angel Dust, which begins with the fairground metal romp of 'Land of Sunshine' and, by way of schizophrenic country ('RV'), twisted funk ('Crack Hitler') and the theme from Midnight Cowboy ('Midnight Cowboy (Theme From)') ends with this surprisingly faithful lounge piano cover of The Commodores Motown classic. With their cover of 'Easy' Faith no More come down from the intense high of the preceding album without ever sacrificing any of its inherent strangeness.