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(Un)Covered: Bitter Sweet Symphony

Bitter Sweet Symphony”
Writers: Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Richard Ashcroft
Original Release Date: June 16, 1997

What’s the first thing you think of when you hear a violin? Classical music, probably, or maybe Yellowcard, but it’s also possible you’ll end up with “Bitter Sweet Symphony” in your head.

Interestingly, the arrangement for the strings was actually sampled from an orchestral recording of The Rolling Stones song “The Last Time” which, in turn, had been inspired by a song by the Staple Singers (also called “The Last Time”). Controversy over the origins of the instrumentals led to Mick Jagger and Keith Richards being awarded co-writing credits, so there’s a lot of history behind the song that would eventually become one of The Verve’s biggest hits. Outside of that, the song brings back sad memories of the end of Cruel Intentions, the 1999 movie starring Ryan Phillippe and Reese Witherspoon (before they were married…and then divorced) and Sarah Michelle Gellar, based on the book Les Liaisons dangereuses. The scene is pretty…well, bittersweet, so the song is a perfect choice, but if you’ve ever seen the movie, the opening chords will punch you right in the feels.

You may know him best as the frontman for The Early November, but Ace Enders has had a handful of side projects over the years. As a solo artist, he’s released music as I Can Make a Mess Like Nobody’s Business, but for a while, he was also going by Ace Enders and A Million Different People. During that time, he released a cover of “Bitter Sweet Symphony” that included a whole group of scene heavyweights: Bryce Avery, Craig Owens, and Mark Hoppus among them. It’s a fun cover in general—the guitars are heavier, giving it more of a rock feel—but the best part really is trying to pick out who sings what: Is that Alex Gaskarth singing “You know the one that takes you to the places where all the veins meet”? When does Matt Thiessen come in?

They’ve only been a full band for about a year, but Mondo Cozmo has already released a full-length album, toured with Bastille, and played over one hundred shows in ten months. One staple of their live set I’ve had the pleasure of hearing live (twice!) is “Bitter Sweet Symphony”. Like Ace Enders, they stick pretty close to the original, but it’s singer Josh Ostrander’s voice that makes this cover stand out. His vocals sound fuller and more throaty than The Verve’s original—and since all the videos on YouTube are of live shows, it’s impressive that he still sounds good, but I really do wish there was a full studio version.

It’s really hard to choose which rendition is the best, but since I like playing the “guess who’s singing this part” game, the Ace Enders cover is the one I listen to most frequently.

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