The Most Beguiling “Weird Al” Yankovic Cover You Will Hear All Week

Jun 5th, 2009 // 3 Comments

The other night I hunkered down with a crossword puzzle book and tuned into a local college radio station that was playing a decent mix of mainstream indie and what typically gets tagged as “emo”–a Dandy Warhols song that sounded like an outtake from Further Complications, some Yeah Yeah Yeahs and Rilo Kiley, a few bands who sounded like they would have fit right into the radio playlists of the hard-rock shows I favored during my misspent adolescence. (Although man am I glad that I didn’t have Wikipedia to rely on for banter back in my DJ days, because I was wishing beyond hope that the DJ would drop the band-bio recitation and let her personality shine through, and it never did. Is this common among the kids these days?) Dropped into the middle of that, though, was something that stuck out in a pretty excellent way: A kalimba-heavy track stuffed with nonsense lyrics, sung by a young woman with a meandering, yet pretty voice. I had no idea what she was going on about until a key lyric that made me realize that the song was, in fact, a cover. Of a “Weird Al” song. (No, not “White And Nerdy.”) The clip, after the jump.

Laura Barrett, who performed the cover, is a Toronto-based musician who, in addition to playing the kalimba, plays bass, kazoo, piano, and other types of percussion. According to Douglas Wolk, “Nirvana” was the first song that Barrett ever played in public, so the cover’s apparently a few years old; there’s more music on her MySpace page; it’s pretty beguiling to these ears, although I imagine her voice–which has an all-over-the-map trippiness reminiscent of Rosie Cuckston from the band Pram–would be a dealbreaker for a lot of people.

Laura Barrett – Smells Like Nirvana [YouTube]
Laura Barrett [MySpace]


  1. I actually like her voice. For me — not to get all Randy Jackson — the deal-breaker is that she’s rewritten the song, with what, best as I can tell, is not even an interpolation of the original Cobain melody but a bizarre wholesale rewrite.

    Parts of that new melody I kind of like, but as a “cover” it’s a loser for me because I can’t get past the incongruity of the Al lyrics with this random other melody. If the new melody were commenting on the original song (Cobain’s or Al’s) in some clever way, I’d be more forgiving, but this is nothing more than a curio to me.

  2. I actually went to school with Laura, and “meandering, yet pretty” is a fairly good 3 word description of her in general (meant in the nicest sense possible).

  3. Sounding like Pram is a dealMAKER. But I know you agree!

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