Patti Smith is a living legend and “Because The Night” is one of her most popular and beloved tracks. It’s such a classic that covering it would seem to be pointless because you couldn’t possibly live up to the original and to even try to would almost be an insult to Smith. Meanwhile, you’d just plain make a fool of yourself. And yet Garbage and Screaming Females decided to team up and cover it for a special Record Store Day release this year. And I’m very glad that they did. Everything about this cover is amazing. For starters, Garbage’s Shirley Manson is nothing short of ferocious here, unleashing something in herself that I don’t recall hearing since “Silence Is Golden” from the Beautiful Garbage album. She just sings this with such intensity that it’s impossible not to be floored by it. Likewise, Screaming Female’s Marissa Paternoster, who sings co-lead vocals with Manson, delivers a visceral wallop, making one wonder if her vocal chords are going to tear and come flying out of her mouth at any given moment. To be sure, it’s not that she sounds strained — she just sounds raw and deadly. When the two sing, “because the night belongs to lovers,” it almost sounds like a threat.
I’m not sure I’d call the original version of “Because The Night” punk rock, but everything about this cover certainly is. And the musicianship is top notch all around. Garbage’s Butch Vig and Screaming Females’ Jarrett Dougherty pound the skins in unison and the resulting beats are massive, the sort that leave you feeling kicked in the chest. But it’s Paternoster’s astounding fretwork that really drives the song. The final third is one mammoth solo and she makes that guitar cry out and bleed all over the place. It’s jaw-droppingly good, nothing short of mind-blowing.
Both of the B-sides on the 10″ record are by Garbage. The first is a Costa Cadeu remix of “Automatic Systematic Habit.” It starts off rather sparse with minimal pitter-pattering and synth with chopped up bits of Shirley’s vocals. “Lies — lies — lies,” it essentially stutters. Her vocals are spliced and diced like that numerous times throughout the track, though it does ultimately deliver the verses and chorus. It just sounds like a record skipping an awful lot during the process. Between the beats and synthy bass and other sound effects, it ultimately reminds me of Lords of Acid. To that end, I wouldn’t exactly call it techno, but it’s closer to techno than house or trance.
The second B-side, “Love Like Suicide,” is a brand new Garbage song and an impressive one at that. While the band often plays with loops and such, this is a pretty straight-forward rock track. Interestingly, the verses pack a surging beat and are faster and more energetic than the chorus, which slows down and does a swirly, dreamy thing. Suffice to say that this is one of those rare instances where the verses are the hook instead of the chorus. As usual, Shirley’s lyrics are biting and quite clever. “All the rubies in the world,” she sings. “They can’t buy her, they can’t have her, they’ll just have to use somebody else.” I wouldn’t necessarily call this a haunting song, but there is something rather ghostly — and slightly menacing — about the way Shirley sings it.