With the bevy of resources at their disposal, one would think that Warner Brothers could give someone, anyone a call to help referee their latest self-celebration. Covered, A Revolution In Sound (CD – MP3) aims to celebrate the label’s 50th anniversary via the tried-and-true “old meets new” formula, where modern artists interpret famous pop songs of the past. Unfortunately, this disc is batting about .250 with only one home run.
As enjoyable as the two opening tracks are, it’s unlikely that listeners who enjoy those tunes – Mastodon’s fierce cover of ZZ Top’s “Just Got Paid” and The Black Keys’ deliciously distorted take on Captain Beefheart’s “Her Eyes Are A Blue Million Miles” – will tolerate the jarring juxtaposition that follows. Michelle Branch just doesn’t fit in this spot, even if armed with a Joni Mitchell tune (“A Case of You”).
Albums such as this never fail to produce an equal number of keepers and throwaways, and the middle of this set is infinitely skippable. Against Me! brings nothing to the table in their take on The Replacements’ “Here Comes A Regular,” Aussie songstress Missy Higgins removes the synthetic sheen from Roxy Music’s “More Than This,” and James Otto – go ahead and Google him, I had to – serves up the tamest possible version of Van Morrison’s classic “Into The Mystic.”
Even those ho-hum tracks are tolerable in comparison to the atrocious “Midlife Crisis,” a once-respectable Faith No More song that dies a horrible death at the hands of Chicago’s own Disturbed. We get it, Disturbed – you were influenced by Faith No More. That doesn’t mean you can just go around defacing their songs for pay. Black Sabbath’s “Paranoid” suffers a similar fate at the hands of yet another metalcore act, Avenged Sevenfold.
Tribute albums are best served with humor and reverence, and there’s some of that to be found if you can tolerate the numerous misses. I couldn’t help but chuckle at Adam Sandler’s atrocious reading of Neil Young’s “Like A Hurricane.” Honestly, it’s not often you can say you’ve heard one of the grandest abominations of sound ever created, especially since such a lofty standard for such accomplishments has been set by many of Warner’s own artists (coughLinkin Parkcough).
Taking Back Sunday contributes an admirable, surprisingly restrained version of Tom Petty’s “You Wreck Me,” and while The Used’s industrialized “Burning Down the House” is never going to replace the original version, it’s at least unique. As expected, The Flaming Lips deliver the goods when called upon. Their usual unusual outlook on pop lyricism makes for a minimally majestic interpretation of Madonna’s “Borderline.” Who better than Wayne Coyne to put an entirely new slant on the song’s lovelorn lyrics? Leave it to the Lips to provide the daring and creativity needed to make an album like this work.
There’s a certain old-school record company machismo to the title of this compilation. “A Revolution In Sound?” Not quite, but it is a blast from the past. Only a conglomerate as massive and self-absorbed as Warner Brothers could put out a tribute record that claims to encompass an entire musical movement. Which fatcat over there thought they could spur a revolution without leaving their office?
-Check out some samples at the above links!