Why the New Smashing Pumpkins Tribute Album Sucks...
Pumpkins fanatic, but tribute albums are generally shitty. I cannot think of a single tribute album in existence that is worth the price of admission. What's worse this time out is the fact that the Pumpkins have such a unique sound-- due in no small part to Billy's signature nasally whine-- and a good portion of their material is essentially worshipped by their dedicated fanbase. Oh, and then there are the bands featured here-- a hodge-podge of the offensively bad (so tempted to name names), the utterly vanilla (ditto), and the unknown. Ben Kweller and the more tolerable of the two Blink 182 splinter groups also contribute. While it's hard to pick a favorite cover, it's even more difficult to determine who massacres their tune the worst.
Let's start with the best: Kweller's laid-back, stripped-down rendition of "Today" is about what you would expect. He's smart enough to resist any temptation to radically reconstruct or go at it recklessly and the tune is all the better for it. It's essentially harmless, but like everything else here, is completely unnecessary. The New Amsterdams' version of "33" is basically okay, but dude painfully over-emotes and takes too many liberties with the vocal melody in a few spots. However, the original is such a beautiful song that one would really have set out to destroy it to make a solo acoustic and vocal cover utterly unlistenable. +44 tackle Gish opener "I am One" and cover it nearly note-for-note, but it will never sound anything other than silly hearing Mark Hoppus singing a Pumpkins song. In fact, Hoppus somehow manages to make the song sound more like 311 than the Pumpkins.
The rest of the bunch are complete stinkers. Oh, where to begin? How 'bout with the very worst? Ironically, Young Love (whoever that is) manage to strip "1979" of every bit of its youthful spirit, turning it into a bland piano and vocal number that could serve as the background music at an Oprah's Book Club meeting. Josh Groban is pissed, dude. The Academy Is... take the epic "Mayonnaise" and render it completely flat and borderline monotonous. This track is among the top-tier anthems of the 90's and if you choose to undertake the endeavor of covering it, you need to bring a hell of a lot more than this to the table. The rest fare slightly better, but you probably won't make it through them once without skipping to the next track. Since I couldn't locate The Bravery's cover on the internet, I cannot say how that one stacks up. But, considering it's The Bravery, I wouldn't get my hopes up.
So, I get the point-- the Pumpkins have a new album coming out and they were a highly influential and well-loved band. It's an undeniably nice gesture to honor the band with something like this, but if the product is ever going to see the light of day you should take more pride in the material than what is presented here. Even with a better group of bands or better performances, it is highly doubtful the results would have been much different. The Pumpkins were completely unique and sound like no one else, even to this day. Sure, they had their influences, but they are in a elite group of bands. They are the rare example of a group that have great songs and are instantly recognizable and unmistakable despite mostly using the common instrumentation of rock music (drums, guitar, bass, and vocals). With the infinite number of bands out there and how it sometimes feels like everything has been done a thousand times before, this feat is becoming increasingly more difficult. Upon tackling the source material of a group like this, the results will inevitably be poor.
You can listen to the individual tracks by clicking on the Pumpkins' top friends on MySpace. (click at your own risk!)
As a bonus, here's a video of the reunited Pumpkins playing a new song, "Starz", live in Germany on June 2, 2007:
Labels: smashing pumpkins