SAFIA brings back early 2000s punk rock with their cover of “No One Knows” by Queens of the Stone Age.
The delicate yet raspy voice from Ben Woolner, SAFIA’s lead singer, edges over the mic, and the band’s cover of “No One Knows” by Queens of the Stone Age begins. The original is intense, to say the least, fitting squarely into the genre that was 2000s punk rock. The original is riddled with ferocity from the snare drum to the electric guitar duo that continuously riffs back and forth. The screeching instrumentals and vocals work together to create the track’s chaotic sound. The SAFIA cover, by contrast, is much more mellow, letting the music sway the listener to a steady melody. It’s a powerful ballad full of gripping vocals, whining, electronic strings, and touched with the simple elegance of a piano. The cover is almost spooky, the electronic mods on the guitar drip eeriness, Woolner’s voice is airy and completely hypnotizing. It’s a call back to a unique style that doesn’t get much circulation, a collision of electronic meets 2000s rock: a traditionally unthinkable combination.
The lyrics are the star of the show for SAFIA’s version in a way that allows the audience to be engulfed in the lyrical storytelling. With Woolner’s soft twang, wide range, and vocal power, he hits the highs and lows, the swells and concaves of the song expertly. The meaning of the song changes with the vibe, moving away from being the soundtrack for an intense chase scene to a song emphasizing desire, passion, possession, and reflection. Even after listening to their version multiple times, it still entrances me; I’ve arrived to its closing chords without realizing. “A gift that you give to me/but no one knows,” Woolner crows, the piano forming delicate arpeggios as the notes close.
With the piano’s presence, moments of the piece become near classical. The sound of this track veers off even from SAFIA’s typical electronic, pop, dance vibe. It’s more serious than the majority of pieces from the typically silly crew, known in part for their eclectic music videos. Though SAFIA hasn’t released new music since 2016, it’s clear that the band has been hard at work on honing and developing their style; they now appear ready to emerge refreshed and renewed again. If this cover is any indication, we can expect a mellowed, Indie pop version of SAFIA to be wading through our headphones soon. Their album, which is available for pre-release on Apple Music now, is set for release on August 9, 2019. This cover comes at a perfect time for press for the band and gives us a nice taste of what we can expect coming up. Listen for yourself below.