On Beck’s Cover of “Leopard-Skin Pill-Box Hat,” and the War Child presents Heroes Benefit Album from Which It Sprung


As the Oscar ceremony credits rolled last night and, via a coming-attractions highlight reel, a grateful nation was alerted to the presence of Night at the Museum 2, perhaps you noticed Beck’s glammy, insouciant take on Dylan’s “Leopard-Skin Pill-Box Hat” playing o’er top. Not terrible, but not triumphant — 95 percent of the criteria used to gauge your success in covering “Leopard-Skin Pill-Box Hat” lies in how you handle what might be Dylan’s best punchline of all time:

Well, I see you got a new boyfriend
You know, I never seen him before
Well, I saw him makin’ love to you
You forgot to close the garage door

Oh man, the way he says “garage door” is one for the age. Beck, though, just sort of blasts right through it — to ham it up too extravagantly would pose a whole other serious problem, of course, but such a flat line-reading does not pose well for Beck’s future in stand-up comedy.

The tune leads off War Child presents Heroes, the new benefit album wherein big-shot legends hand-pick a disciple to cover one of their alleged masterworks. Some of what results is rock-critic-hack obvious (the Hold Steady do Springsteen) or an awkward attempt to get a date (Paul McCartney taps Duffy for “Live and Let Die,” Mick Jones joins Lily Allen on “Straight to Hell”), but there’s some pleasantly incongruous blasphemy lurking elsewhere: Hot Chip brightens up Joy Division’s “Transmission,” Franz Ferdinand porns up Blondie’s “Call Me,” and Peaches’ version of “Search and Destroy” is way less intolerable than you might’ve thought. But for a certain cast of wuss-ass piano-ballad fans, the highlight here is Elbow doing U2’s “Running to Stand Still,” most probably a top-5 U2 song all time, with not much altered here besides the Elbow guy’s polite avoidance of the high notes, but still, as they’re saying in all the high-concept literary zines these days, “Pretty good song!”

The War Child charity provides “support to children marginalized by the effects of war in Darfur, Afghanistan, northern Uganda, and other devastated conflict areas around the world.” Go buy a CD, see how it feels.