||05/30/06 12:18 PM
Various Artists - Punk Goes '90s
Various Artists - Punk Goes '90s
Record Label: Fearless Records
Release Date: May 9, 2006
It’s really time for this series to stop. In Fearless’ latest endeavor into the popular Punk Goes Whatever series, 15 bands attempt to cover songs from the 90s with or without their own individual flavor added to the songs. Many fail. In fact, most of them fail. But there in lies the problem with a Punk Goes 90s compilation. The target market for this album are people who were born in the 80’s, people who grew up idolizing artists like Nirvana, Third Eye Blind, Oasis, and more. Songs like Oasis’s “Wonderwall” (which may be one of the greatest songs ever written) simply can’t be covered in a manner that can do justice to the original – it’s just too soon. That song, for me, holds a special place in my musical upbringing and I’m certain it does in many others as well. Punk Goes 80s, Punk Goes Pop, those are full of covers bands can pull off, because listeners can relate to 80s songs as being something they hear at the dentist office while waiting to get their wisdom teeth out, and pop music as being that annoying Pink song they see on MTV while flipping through the channels. It’s not personal. But the 90s hit too close to home for the demographic this compilation is marketed to. It also doesn’t help that most of the covers are poorly done and are bad song choices.
There are some decent covers on this record, but they almost all suffer from being worse than the original. One stand out track is Gym Class Heroes version of Red Hot Chili Pepper’s “Under the Bridge” in an excellent fusion of rap and rock. Bedlight For Blue Eyes’ cover of Third Eye Blind’s “Jumper” is stunning. It’s no secret that Bedlight’s ex-vocalist had a serious set of pipes on him, and this acoustic, stripped down version of the song features him belting out the lyrics in a way that not only did Stephan Jenkins justice, but almost showed him up.
The disc suffers from a bad b-side vibe, as many of these songs sound like they were recorded in a day without proper production and mixing. Anberlin, known for their crystal clear production from Aaron Sprinkle, does a decent job with their Depeche Mode cover, but in the 2nd chorus, there’s parts where the vocals are ear-splittingly out of tune, something incredibly uncharacteristic for Anberlin. Hit the Lights’ cover sounds unmastered and lacks the punch of their latest full-length.
So They Say attempts to make their cover of Nirvana’s “In Bloom” sound like mid 90s grunge with muffled snare hits and other production tweaks, but it doesn’t mask the fact that it’s a terrible cover. Unlike the band’s Rod Stewart cover on Punk Goes 80s, the band fails to bring their own style to this song. Way too ambitious of a project, Nirvana shouldn’t have even been touched on this compilation. Kurt Cobain wrote simple songs with very basic guitar lines. His songs should remain in their original form only. Fearless, as always, has put their own personal stamp on the Punk Goes series with some of their own bands, including ones that seem to have no business being on the compilation. The Killing Moon manages to butcher an Alanis Morissette song (an amazing feat) with awkwardly placed saxophones and other instrumentation. The vocals attempt to mimic Alanis’s female angst, but instead comes out contrived and desperate. The Plain White T's cover of Blur is a straight interpretation with absolutely no variation or originality. There's really no point in covering a famous song unless it's going to be at least somewhat different.
Other notable tracks include Scary Kids Scaring Kids’ cover of the R.E.M. classic “Losing My Religion.” I have to respect the band for attempting to bring their own style to the song, using that “haunted mansion” synth effect they’re so well known for, and applying backing screams during the chorus. Unfortunately, “Losing My Religion” is one of the best songs of that decade and SKSK, no matter how well executed the cover is, can’t come close to doing it justice. The vocals are out of tune and droning, and it made me wonder if Michael Stipe is cringing somewhere every time he hears the band scream in his chorus. Speaking of famous rockstars, wouldn’t we all love to hear what notorious loudmouth and ego maniac Noel Gallagher would have to say about Cartel’s cover of Oasis’s “Wonderwall?” While the band actually does a great job at covering this song, it’s far too iconic of a song to be covered by a pop-punk band coming into their own, no matter how well executed the cover is. Cartel does do a solid job bringing their own flair to the song, as Will messes with the timing of the lyrics and changes a few notes here and there. I can’t criticize what they did other than saying it was a doomed song to cover because of how legendary the original was.
This is easily the worst out of the Punk Goes series. It’s simply too soon to be covering 90s songs to this generation and demographic. It’s impossible to do justice to songs that we grew up on, and only about 30% of the songs on this compilation even come close to doing justice to the originals. The main problem with this album does not lie within the quality of the songs, but in the songs being covered. The disc also lacks continuity and feels very scattered, especially since some of the songs sound thrown together and overly raw. One can only hope this is the end of the Punk Goes Decades series and that Fearless does not attempt a Punk Goes 00s compilation next.