Cover songs: “Guilty pleasure” cop-out or not, you know you love ’em, or my name ain’t Louie Louie. Tribute albums: A mixed, and usually horrid, bag; anyone who’s ever thought about assembling yet another Hendrix, Beatles, Zeppelin, Kiss or Pink Floyd trib, see below. Full-on remakes: Unless you’re Phish (each Halloween the band covers a famous record, such as the Beatles’ White Album, in its entirety) or Pussy Galore (who issued a wonderfully skronky interpretation of the Stones’ Exile On Main Street), we’re talking capital crimes territory.
A few years ago a series of professional-looking underground CDs surfaced that were billed as “trance remixes” of Pink Floyd albums, ambient/dance recastings rumored to have been created by Britain’s the Orb. Some (Animals; Meddle; the sound track to Obscured By Clouds) were more interesting than others (such as The Wall, too dependent upon Roger Waters’ lyric wordiness to work well as background music). It’s interesting to note at this juncture, however, that a recent bluegrass interpretation, Rebuild the Wall by Luther Wright and the Wrongs, holds its own. At any rate, the recontextualization of looped-in passages from the original albums, duly synched-up beat-wise and matched to complementary electronic textures, had an intriguing jolt of alien familiarity.
And had the tellingly-named Out of Phase contented itself similarly, adapting the Pete Townshend source material’s rich melodies and internal dynamics to empathetic instrumental backdrops, Who’s Next 2.002 might’ve been a worthwhile effort. As it turns out, the album’s the dud of the year.
It starts out promisingly enough; “Baba O’Riley”’s signature opening synth/piano riffs, wedded to a subtle Latin rhythm, initially convey a sleek, ambient vibe. The mood’s quickly shattered, however, by a hair-metal blast of guitar and the arrival of the singer (either Cecilie Svensson or someone called Trine — the credits are vague). This whiny cooing is neither distinctive enough to supplant Roger Daltrey’s brawny bawl nor sensual/icy enough to work on a chillout level. What could have been a thumping trance/house version of “Bargain” devolves into a gummy mélange of off-kilter sequencers and another annoying brace of metallic guitar, while a Tori Amos-goes-goth take on “My Wife” surely has John Entwistle’s cocaine-riddled carcass twisting in the grave. The potential of the elegiac, mystical “Song Is Over” gets rapidly squandered; despite an airy violin referencing the original’s melody, the tune comes undone via a lead-footed prog-cum-worldbeat arrangement and an impromptu Whitney “Reefer Madness” Houston impression from the singer. And everybody’s favorite warhorse, “Won’t Get Fooled Again,” turns unintentionally hilarious when the heavily treated vocals suddenly start sounding like Nico on helium and, from out of nowhere, a sax player abruptly attempts to match a subpar Scorpions riff, lick for lick. Inexplicably, but appropriately, the tune comes to an abrupt halt — like a pissed-off club owner pulling the plug.
California label Big Eye should be commended for releasing this — as an example of how not to do a remake. Out of Phase, on the other hand, should simply be taken out back and shot.
E-mail Fred Mills at email@example.com.