Various Artists – Who Cares: A Tribute to the Who

Various Artists
Who Cares: A Tribute to the Who

It occurred to me not too long ago that even though I’ve been reviewing records for Delusions of Adequacy for over a year now, I’ve never had the pleasure ( ? ) of reviewing a compilation – a tribute or otherwise. Hence, I had to put some thought into just how a compilation, and especially a tribute comp, should be reviewed. Obviously, it cannot simply be reviewed on the quality of the songs – please see the recent Pixies tribute. Likewise, a tribute cannot be judged by the quality of the bands on it – again, check out that Pixies tribute. And then there is the whole issue of song interpretations. Is a song really good if it is simply replicated by a new band. What audio allowances should be made for a band willing to reinterpret the song? Is asking these questions really helping you learn about this CD?

I suppose I could ask more really annoying rhetorical questions, but I think I’ll cut the bullshit and skip to the music. 4 Hr. Ramona open the CD with a blues-infested cover of “The Seeker,” which not only exposes the song’s unabashed blues roots, but sounds different enough from the original to be worth listening to. Peter Parker covers “I Can See for Miles” and turns in one of the album’s best performances. They punk up the song just enough, with buzzing guitars and an uptempo pace to keep things interesting. Jeremy Sever cover “Happy Jack” with some interesting percussion, but they fail to change the song enough to warrant its inclusion. Clang Quartet take Sever’s idea one step further and add some weird screaming and come up with a pretty good cover.

Things start to get weird after that. SoundRangers get cool points for turning “Baba O’Riley” into ambient techno trash, but the song is so far gone that it loses its point and is hard to listen to. Manganese Nodule (who the hell named that band?) give a trip-hop bend to “Armenia in the Sky.” The singer in Bill Wolford’s Head (Iregular records should really talk to some of these band about their names) distorts his voice and throws it over a wall of guitar buzz to come up with a very cool cover of “Behind Blue Eyes.” Flexie adds a female touch to a cover of “The Kids Are Alright” that sounds like it came from the 70’s but still sounds inexplicably unique.

The Penningtons add a southern feel and harmonized vocals to a solid interpretation of “So Sad About Us.” Blue Collar love take breathy female vocals and turn them into a gorgeous version of “Substitute.” Kill Switch…Klick take a 70’s cock-rock attitude to “5:15” and make it a strong rock song. Trance to the Sun use ambient textures and atmospheric vocals to “The Real Me” and retain just enough of the old song to keep it from going off the deep end. It’s interesting, to say the least. “Mary Anne with the Shaky Hand” is simply a jangly remake, and P.S. Wilkinson could have done more with it. Kim Virant pulls off a really pretty version of “Getting in Tune” that actually works far better for a solo artist than it does for an established band playing stadiums. And there’s a catch in her voice that almost makes the song sound like a showtune (in a good way). Henry Boy strips down “Won’t Get Fooled Again” to a single distorted guitar and a voice, and its blues roots shine through brightly. Another standout track. The last track, 212 covering “Pictures of Lily,” takes a really excellent song and turns it into experimental trash noise.

So there it is, all 16 songs. I was really skeptical going into this – I didn’t think anything good could possibly come from a Who tribute. Obviously, there were some really good tracks, especially when these pop classics are exposed for the blues-rock that they really are. Surprisingly enough, I could have done without all the experimental ambient stuff, though I’m usually a sucker for that kind of music. This tribute has a lot of good ideas on it, even if only half of them really pan out. For that alone, this album gets my recommendation. You’ve got to give the bands credit for at least trying something different. Maybe that’s what tribute albums should be about anyway.