Ohhhhhhhh boy, a tribute album. To most, the mere mentioning of such a thing is met with a heavy eye roll, a sigh, and an immediate brewing of negatively preconceived notions. What is it about these things that makes people hate them so? Do people expect the songs to sound exactly like their originals? Should they change things up? Should they try to outdo them? Really, what needs to be done to make people accept tribute albums, much less cover songs on their own? I don't have a problem with covers as long as they're done well and reflect both the original artists' and the artist covering the song's talents and abilities to make good music. That's it. That's all I need. Is that too much to ask? In the case of the scathingly prickish music critic and discerning elitist, it's not nearly enough, and for this little ode to The Police, it's hit or miss and a lot of in between.
The roster for this disc reads like a roll call for today's clean-cut, bring ‘em home to mom pop bands. One look on the track list: Brandtson, Maxeen, The Pale, Watashi Wa, Motion City Soundtrack, Copeland, etc., and you get my point. Each band chose a song and did what they could with it, and the end results ebb and flow with mixed results.
It's not so much of a question of who did better than who, but more just who did the songs justice without butchering the shit out of it? "Wrapped Around Your Finger" was drawn by the new princes of pop-core, Underoath, and they actually handle it quite well. Hearing Sting's lyrics screamed and hollered amidst razor-lined guitars and breathy near-falsetto vocals is actually a lot more entertaining than one would think. Underoath took the song and made it sound like one of their own with their signature screamo energy and sugary pop indulgence. The Pale handles "Walking On The Moon" quite well, same thing with Brandtson with "King Of Pain". Limbeck's lovely little folkish rendition of "So Lonely" may be the one that stands out from the rest of the group, as they stripped it down and cut out all of the gloss. I get the feeling they just weren't trying as hard as everyone else and that's what makes their contribution so enjoyable. Copeland drew the make-or-break, "Every Breath You Take", slowing it way, way down and tugging at the drama strings. Most people are hardened to this song simply by hearing both the Police and countless other bands rattle it out so many times, so I applaud Copeland for the balls to take it on, but it's a delicate thing to try to handle and that's what will get an instant love or hate sentiment from hearing it.
Some of the songs just do their duties as filler and shrug material when others perk your ears up a little, it's a tribute album and you can't rate it on the same scale as a serious release. This is where everyone goes wrong. Don't look at this, or other tributes as competitive and serious, just take them for what they are: just a bunch of bands playing some songs by another band that greatly influenced them, no more, no less. It won't be in your top ten for the year, and it won't point out a marked part of your life, it's here to ease your curiosity, to be pieced out for mixtapes for your friends, and to be there when you go, ‘Hey man, check this out," that's it. And hey, there aren't any Daddies to be Puffed and no Diddies to be P'd on the entire disc, that's got to count for something.
- Philip Del Costello | 2005-03-10