Hidden Gems is our new column where we share the gems we find while digging deep into the vast, intricate universe of music.
When I first heard Metric covered Tom Waits, I wondered how Metric, a lively, indie rock and electronic band could possibly cover Tom Waits, a legendary, almost old-fashioned singer who likes to growl when he sings. This isn’t the first acoustic track I’ve heard from Metric. One of my favorites has been the version of “Gold, Guns, Girls” they did for The Raw Side of… back in 2010. Two years later, leading members, Emily and James started doing performing many acoustic songs to promote their new album Synthetica. These songs felt different. Emily’s voice had matured and become more raspy and strained. The strain on her voice added a new feeling of intimacy to the music. On her the title track on the album, in the chorus, she sings the sincere words –“Hey, I’m not synthetica,” revealing her commitment to embrace her imperfections. Given the context, it makes sense she would cover Tom Waits, a singer long loved for his naked, raspy growl.
The song, “Strange Weather,” is a haunting, eerie and thoroughly lonely song. “All over the world, strangers talk only about the weather,” she sings in the refrain. The simplicity of Metric’s version, in which Emily’s matured voice is accompanied only by James’ gloomy piano chords, changes the original feeling of the song. Whereas the Tom Waits track wanders with wobbly instrumentals, and oscillating speeds and moods—Metric’s remains consistent. It matches the goal for the album she conveyed when announcing the new album: “SYNTHETICA is about forcing yourself to confront what you see in the mirror when you finally stand still long enough to catch a reflection.” In some ways, it is the consistency in rhythm and mood she conveys in her cover that feels like that cold, unwavering stare in the mirror.
Watch: Tom Waits – Strange Weather (1988)
More versions of this song:
Marianne Faithfull – Strange Weather, Live 2005 (Although the song was originally written by Tom Waits and Kathleen Brennan, Marianne Faithfull released the first recorded version on her album).
Tom Waits – Strange Weather, acoustic demo (The earliest version of the song).