Search The Line of Best Fit
Search The Line of Best Fit

Tegan & Sara bathe The Con in the glow of empathy and compassion with a moving covers record

"The Con X: Covers"

Release date: 20 October 2017
Teganand Sara The Con X Covers
31 October 2017, 11:30 Written by Joe Goggins
There’s myriad reasons why it might feel like a lot longer than ten years since Tegan & Sara released The Con.

Genre tags are fickle things and represent the opposite of an exact science but, used loosely in this context, they help us to chart the career progression of the Canadian twins since. The Con was the last time that anybody could reasonably have referred to them as an indie rock outfit; musically, it was a record characterised by awkward, angular guitars, urgent vocals, and a typically warm, mid-fi production job from Death Cab for Cutie’s Chris Walla.

Thereafter, as committed followers will know, Tegan & Sara have turned a definitive compositional corner, first with the electronic leanings of 2009’s Sainthood and then, much more dramatically, with the out-and-out pop of Heartthrob in 2013 and then the measured, chart-bothering cool that Love You to Death was scored through with last year. By the time you’d had the infuriatingly catchy melodies of those last few records bouncing around your skull for a while, you’d be forgiven for thinking that the angsty duo that had produced The Con and, before it, So Jealous had been some kind of trick of the memory.

They weren’t, though, and as this clever and affectionate retrospective proves, you aren’t the only one who’s kept the old Tegan & Sara on the brain. The very fact that they've chosen to play The Con in full at select dates this Autumn across North America speaks to that; that type of tour is usually a bona fide sign that a band is past its peak, but most observers would point to the last two albums being the closest the pair have come to the height of their creative powers. The album was important enough to the sisters that they’ve chosen to revisit it, even when they didn’t need to.

In the same vein, it’s clear that no standard-issue re-release was going to do for this album; instead, Tegan & Sara have tapped into their considerable pool of famous fans to help them celebrate a record that means so much to so many. There’s no shortage of highlights here, and they’re all born out of the same two fundamentals - a genuine love for the source material, and free reign to reinvent it.

Shura’s take on the title track is a world away from the original, swapping spiky nervousness for for dense atmospherics underpinned by thumping programmed drums. At the other end of the spectrum, Ryan Adams, who once again relishes the opportunity to put his own stamp on a favourite LP, delivers a freewheeling, punky take on “Back in Your Head”. Jack Antonoff of Bleachers, the year’s hottest pop producer by about a million miles, picks the perfect time for subtlety with his quietly lovely take on “Burn Your Life Down”, whilst Hayley Williams taps into the same eighties palette that dominated her band’s After Laughter back in May on a Fleetwood Mac-tinged “Nineteen”. Full marks for daring to Kelly Lee Owens, too, for her experimental take on “Soil, Soil”.

With so many different cooks involved in the production of this particular broth, there was always going to be the occasional misstep, and Chvrches’ version of closer “Call It Off” borders on travesty - musically milquetoast and emotionally sterile. Otherwise, though, The Con X: Covers is a thoroughly uplifting listen. In recruiting not just so many talented admirers of the source material, but so many contemporaries that have first-hand experience of the wrangles over sexual identity that defined the original, Tegan & Sara have paid gorgeous, tender tribute to their younger selves. They’re now free to move onto LP9, and what will, with any luck, be the closing act of an irresistible synthpop trilogy.

Share article

Get the Best Fit take on the week in music direct to your inbox every Friday

Read next