Good Riddance – Cover Ups

Good Riddance
Cover Ups

Punk rock cover songs are an interesting category. The number of compilations completely dedicated to them is endless, they often fill in as B-sides on singles, some bands like Me First and the Gimme Gimmes play nothing but them, and sometimes a unique band will put together an entire album of them. Their prevalence is so overpowering that these tribute tracks are occasionally dismissed as a novelty with a brief shelf life, so when Good Riddance, perhaps the most thoughtful and enduring band on the Fat Wreck roster, decided to gather up a bunch of old, new, and difficult-to-find songs for Cover Ups, a 10-song effort consisting entirely of songs they didn’t write, I probably wasn’t the only person who grew a little concerned.
It wouldn’t be a punk rock cover song album without some new versions of cheesy 80s songs. Modern English’s “I Melt With You” (featuring the sneers of NOFX’s Fat Mike) kicks off the album, and is joined later by the Kinks’ “Come Dancing.” Take the original versions, crank the tempo up a few notches, add some chugging chords and sing-along chants, and you have the Good Riddance interpretation. “Come Dancing” borders on being downright silly but is nothing compared to a new take on the Shangri-Las’ “Leader of the Pack,” complete with motorcycle noises, handclaps, and guys trying to sing like girls. The band’s take on the Psychedelic Furs’ “In My Head” is excellent though, making up for any earlier foolishness and standing out as one of the best tracks offered.
In the other hand, there is the easily disposable “I Stole Your Love,” originally performed by Kiss. Overall, Good Riddance sounds best when it is paying homage to the influences that shine through the most in the band’s original material. Insted’s “Feel Their Pain,” Battalion of Saints’ “Second Coming,” Government Issue’s “Hall of Fame,” and the excellent version of Black Flag’s “My Way” (featuring Bill Stevenson of Black Flag, All, and the Descendents on drums) all sound more like actual Good Riddance tracks than any of the others, while Chron Gen’s “Outlaw” gives the rough-around-the-edges feel of Good Riddance in the early days.
Like any comparable effort, Cover Ups is indeed a mixed bag. It is always interesting to see what sort of songs and bands are claimed as influences by an act you enjoy, but sometimes that music is better off left in the past. For true fans, this will serve as a nice addition to any Good Riddance collection, but for those seeking an introduction to the band’s socially and politically motivated melodic hardcore, go grab yourself a copy of Symptoms of a Leveling Spirit instead.