Easy punk rawk target

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This grand ’90s punk tribute to ’80s New Wave is such a great idea for a cover compilation that Vagrant Records decided to do it twice.

Surprisingly, these bands sound almost as in touch with the original versions of the songs as the original artists did — especially the Get Up Kids doing "Close To Me" by the Cure with a brand of plucky whining that would make Robert Smith blush with pleasure through his pancake makeup.

It’s enough to make you wonder — is this Before You Were Punk business an ironic indictment conjured up to stir a subversive rawk tingle in the numb, adolescent gonads of this decade’s punk bands, or is it a confession to the guilty radio pleasures of their youth? But these covers also beg the question: What New Wave ’80s tune didn’t beg to be improved upon? With the exception of Elvis Costello’s "No Action" — which is whipped outta shape here by the spiritually conscious MXPX — most of the songs here are lambs to the guitar-chopping slaughter.

The predecessor to this compilation featured Face to Face, Blink-182, Hagfish, Guttermouth and a few lesser-knowns. On this compilation, Flock of Seagulls’ "Space Age Love Song" is covered by No Motiv; The Romantics’ "What I Like About You" gets revved up but stays close to home with the Suicide Machines; and the Bouncing Souls breathe a new, angst-driven life into "Don’t You Forget About Me" in a way Simple Minds couldn’t have imagined.

There’s more tribute terror from Rocket From the Crypt ("This Way Out"), the Hippos ("Our Lips are Sealed"), Lagwagon ("Bring on the Dancing Horses"), All ("Rebel Yell") and others making a semicharming New Wave mess of everything and — in most cases — still managing to sound far better than the original artists of the ’80s. But that was the easy part.

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