This really is a great cover version. Superchunk took the raw materials of Devo’s original, added needle sharp guitars and gallons of adrenaline and produced something which not only didn’t sound like Devo, but didn’t sound much like Superchunk either. Excellent band as they are, I’m not aware of them producing anything else that sounds as precise and exciting as this cover.
Superchunk’s version of Girl U Want appeared on the 1992 compilation Freedom Of Choice, a collection of new-wave hits covered by 90s bands. It was one of my first CD purchases, mainly acquired because it featured Mudhoney. I loved Mudhoney, but their cover of Pump It Up by Elvis Costello is neither here nor there – not magnificent. Sonic Youth are on there too, with a cover of Plastic Bertrand’s Ca Plane Pour Moi, which is also pretty good. It’s a really enjoyable collection, but I’ve only just noticed that the rest of the participants are actually pretty obscure; Erectus Monotone, Polvo, Hypnolovehweel, Chia Pet, Tiny Lights – who the fuck are these bands? Doesn’t matter, Superchunk’s contribution is the definite highlight.
I didn’t hear the Devo original until many years later and it’s also great – a real grower in their inimitable 80s style – but Superchunk’s cover beats it hands down. I’ve since found out that Soundgarden have also covered Girl U Want (as has Robert Palmer). Their version is fine, but Superchunk’s Girl U Want has been decreed by NoiseCrumbs to be the definitive one and it also has the honour of being Magnificent Cover Version No.1.