by Tim Den
New Deep Elm artists covering old Deep Elm classics… ooooooh boy, this is gonna get ugly.
For those of you who weren’t there to experience it, Deep Elm was the first label in the mid to late ’90s to fully embrace the resurrected term “emo” (check their long-beyond-relevant The Emo Diaries series, for instance). But this was not a crime at the time: For the emo movement of the day contained many a brilliant outfits, quite a few of them calling Deep Elm home. Bands such as (a very young, not to mention pre-“The”) Appleseed Cast, Pop Unknown, Cross My Heart, and my two faves, Last Days Of April and Starmarket, and all were as different from each other as they were equally affecting, pouring out note after note of angsty honesty and heartbreak. Some of Deep Elm’s records from this era are still close to me. But when was the last time the label provided something new that matched its glorious past? Hell if I remember. So it’s not a surprise, then, that newcomers on Cover Your Tracks completely butcher, desecrate, and miss the essence of the originals.
Desert City Soundtrack tackle Appleseed Cast’s “Marigold & Patchwork,” except they replace the aching heart of the song – the squealing, noodling guitar – with piano tinkering that sounds like Something Corporate. Add a few screamo yells, and you’ve got a plate of fried shit. Fightstar one of Last Days Of April’s best songs, “The Days I Recall Being Wonderful,” by changing its tempo to a springtime trot and singing it like a neutered eunuch. Some dude from Slowride tries to translate (by this time with “The”) The Appleseed Cast’s monumental “Fishing the Sky” into some wannabe swamp blues, losing pretty much all sight of the original in the process. No sky-splitting arpeggio, no cathartic punch, not even authentic emotion, just some white kid mimicking blues. With an indie rock cover song as his foundation. Can you say garbage avalanche?
Burns Out Bright put a jumpy, uptempo beat behind Pop Unknown’s originally sour “This Guy’s Ready For Bed,” once again demonstrating how to properly miss what the original was going for. And no, adding chug chugs and double bass kicks don’t help, retards. Settlefish try just a tad too hard to sound depressing at slowing down Last Days Of April’s “Will the Violins Be Playing?,” almost falling asleep at the wheel. The song itself is already morose enough, heavy handedly overdoing it is just overkill.
Unbelievably, two entries actually didn’t make me vomit: Surrounded do a passable acoustic treatment of Starmarket’s “Coming From the Cold,” but maybe I’m biased cuz the dude also sings with a Swedish accent. Small Arms Dealer stick to the blueprint with Cross My Heart’s “Today I Discovered the World,” but then overdo it with overly eager drum fills and wankery arpeggios. Pretty bad, but at least not fucking awful like the rest of Cover Your Tracks.
Listening to this thing, I don’t know if I feel sad for the originals or for the kids who obviously have no idea how to emote properly. Ironic, ain’t it? Most of these bands are supposed to be “emo.” Cover Your Tracks is cold, hard proof that the glorious ’90s are long, long gone.