Before You Were Punk 2
Another Punk Rock Tribute to ’80s New Wave (Vagrant)
by Scott Hefflon
Vagrant Records is one of the very, very few that really takes the time and attention to make a great theme compilation. While theme and tribute comps are a dime-a-dozen, that’s really all most of ’em are worth. Vagrant stands with the few, the proud, the labels that give a shit and have a great eye for detail. I imagine they turned down a number of tracks, thus hurting the oh-so-artistic feelings of good bands that should’ve known better than to submit a cover that was below their standards. Thing is, do you want a label to cuddle/coddle your favorite bands whether they record good songs or not, or do you want a label that says, “Sorry, it’s just not good enough. Try again.”? I, for one, wish more labels would kick the shit out of lazy bands rather than release pretty shitty records by pretty good bands. I hate to review them, and you hate to pay good money for them, so how ’bout we applaud the hard-working and talented and boycott the lazy and talentless?
Before You Were Punk2 begins its 12 songs (only 37 minutes, which usually I’d bitch about, but seeing as it’s 37 good minutes, I guess it’s OK) with The Suicide Machines‘ take on The Romantics “What I Like About You,” a song I’m very surprised isn’t covered more often. Good stuff from a band who I liked, bailed on when they started to suck, and now am starting to like again. Next up is NOFX covering OMD’s “Electricity.” NOFX, to me, is what’s so right about ’90s punk – they make it look so effortless (often because it is). These guys can simply do no wrong. Following is a frighteningly accurate cover of Flock of Seagulls’ “Space Age Love Song” by No Motiv. If you haven’t checked out this “sadcore” band, do so. MxPx cover Adam Costello’s “No Action,” and while it sounds good because it’s a great song by a great songwriter, it never ceases to amaze me how little MxPx invests of themselves, and yet I still like almost every song they do. The Hippos pop in with The Go-Go’s “Our Lips Are Sealed,” and while it doesn’t really go anywhere, it’s cute as all hell. Next up is The Bouncing Souls (with horns provided by The Pietasters) doing a beautifully authentic cover of Simple Minds’ “Don’t You Forget About Me.” Singer Greg Attonito sounds so convincing and right-on, this is one of the best of the bunch. And while I’ve yet to hear anything original by The Get Up Kids that I like (or at all, come to think of it), their cover of The Cure’s “Close to Me” kinda clues me into what they’re about. It’s “lazy”: there’s not a lot going on, and the whole thing sounds kinda youthful and apathetic and simple (hence I usually don’t like them), but it’s perfect for this song. Probably the best song they’ve ever done. Rocket From The Crypt stops by with a cover of Wall of Voodoo’s “This Way Out,” a song I’ve never heard, but based on liking it, and liking and trusting the band (and their note encouraging fans to check out WoV’s Dark Continent for “creepy, cynical New Wave at its finest”), I’m going to go explore. Next, the Gotohells do a pretty note-for-note cover of The Cars’ “Just What I Needed,” and while fans of either band might get all juicy over it, I’m kind of indifferent. I never really got the appeal of the Gotohells anyway, so there it is. Lagwagon do a nice cover of Echo and the Bunnymen’s “Bring on the Dancing Horses,” but seeing as the only song by Echo atB that I really like is their cover of “People are Strange” on The Lost Boys soundtrack, it’s hard for me to say if it’s anything other than a good listen. Strung Out do the slowest song I’ve ever heard by them with their cover of The Police’s “Every Breath You Take.” While the end picks up, the song’s always kinda put me to sleep, and Jason just can’t really sing that well, so I think this is probably the worst song I’ve heard from the band. Closing out the CD is ALL‘s cover of Billy Idols’ “Rebel Yell.” Pretty ironic that a guy who’s still eating his words “You can’t stop the punk rock” would be considered New Wave instead of punk. Must be the hairdo. ALL kinda ALL-izes the guitar riff, but it’s pretty much the same. But the new solo kicks the old one’s ass. And while Chad doesn’t have that same schmaltzy croon, he sounds pretty damn good, as always.
So while Before You Were Punk2 is short, it’s sweet and it’s worth the bucks.
(2118 Wilshire Blvd. #361 Santa Monica, CA 90403)