Undercover Presents 100+ San Francisco Bay Area Musicians Play a Tribute to Pixies’ Doolittle with music director Aaron Novik.

a fitting (if slightly bewildering) tribute

 

http://undercoverpresents.com/

Ok, here’s one out of left field. There are hundreds of ‘tribute’ albums out there on record store shelves, with bands covering tracks from an established artist and, usually, they’re a bunch of half arsed nonsense. This isn’t. In fact, it’s so much fun I think it should well be made illegal. It certainly has no right to be this entertaining, this delightful, this much fun. That’s not to say it’s all brilliant, as it most certainly isn’t, but at least you’ll get a giggle out of the stuff you don’t like.

I never thought I’d ever hear an afro pop version of Debaser and I would never have even dared dream for it to be any good, but thankfully it is. In fact, it’s wonderful. Albino, thank you! Wholeheartedly. Seth Augustus and Patrick Cress give Tame a bluesy make over that dulls the sharpness of the original somewhat but yet still feels like a close relation. Classical Revolution/Unwoman’s handsome take on Wave of Mutilation is all wild fiddles and respectful vocals and at least raises a smile, if never quite escaping from the ghost of the original.  Doctor Edmund Welles and the Axe-Wielders of Chaos do drastic things to I Bleed, however, but at least they evoke the spirit of Black Francis somewhat. Whether or not you can call this an affectionate tribute is another matter. In fact, they may well piss on the grave of the original and kick its devoted fans square in the teeth but it’s still a compelling listen, even if it does go on for a week and a half.

Joe Bagale proves you simply can’t fail with something as poptastic as Here Comes Your Man, even if you don’t really try very hard whereas Beep! have an absolute blast with Dead. It really is very daft indeed. In a good way. At one point it sounds like one of those sound effect tapes from the BBC Radiophonic Workshop. Trust me, early Doctor Who fans will love it.

A lot of you will have been waiting this far to see how Monkey Gone To Heaven is handled and I can tell you that Conspiracy Of Venus (great name) take it somewhere you may never have expected. Female. Voice. Choir. Amen to that. LoCuria turn Mr. Grieves into some kind of long lost Los Lobos track, which is interesting enough, although the faux reggae vibe in the middle drags it down a little. Japonize Elephants bring out all the bells and whistles for Crackity Jones. There may even be a couple of spoons in there somewhere and the whole thing is so incredibly daft I can’t help but find it entertaining. And when it turns into a full on gypsy dance track, with screeching violins and accordions, well, it ends up being all kinds of fantastic. Dina MacCabee works wonders with La La Love You too, twisting the song into something  beautiful, languid, fluid and simple. It seems a world away from its original incarnation and all the better for it. I’m not entirely sure what Aaron Novik was thinking though as his version of No. 13 baby sounds like Cher fronting They Might Be Giants. It scares me, frankly.

The Rob Reich trio strangle a weasel , cause discomfort to a sea lion and do unspeakable things to a seagull during their sea-shantified version of There Goes My Gun, or at least it sounds like they do. Blue Rabbit play Hey, like TLC teamed up with James Yorkston and his band which works very well indeed. Then there’s just enough time for Karina Denike to turn Silver into a pounding headache of a track before Sarah Palmer comes along with her version of Gouge Away, which is very brooding and atmospheric. The quirkiness of the original, which while still sharp and acerbic retained a cheeky pop sensibility is turned into a cacophony of wailing female voices, deep drums and melancholy horns. It brings to album to a loud and aggressive close, as I suppose it should.

All in all, it’s a fascinating listen. It’s admirable that this does not feel like a simple ‘cash-in’ album and it’s clear that the artists involved, for the most part, have at least tried to do something creative and original with their covers. Whilst this was always going to be a mixed bag of an album, it’s a tribute to all involved that it came out as well as it did. It’s certainly a valiant effort and, while it would be easy to dismiss it out of hand and overlook it, it would be a shame to do so.

In fact, you’d be missing out quite a bit. This album is a lot of fun and a fitting (if slightly bewildering) tribute to a great album. Good work all round.