Hello, friends! Donald here. Now, I know what you’re thinking: they made another “Punk” Goes album? And Keep Calm is actually reviewing it? The answers, unfortunately, are yes and yes. When Craig and I reviewed Punk Goes Pop 5, we had a ton of fun with it, and for some reason Hopeless Records just can’t give up the ghost, so here we are again. Punk Goes 90s, Vol. 2 actually has a few intriguing storylines, thanks to the triumphant return of Yellowcard to the mix, the inexplicable spotlight Ronnie Radke continues to be given, and the fact that the Fearless Records got away from having bands do pop covers. With that, let’s sift through the mud together. There may be gold awaiting (but probably not)!
(Writer’s note: as per our tradition, Donald will be posting a small review of each cover, while Craig will be posting a .gif of his reaction to each track. Fasten your seat belts.)
Get Scared – “My Own Worst Enemy” (originally performed by Lit)
Donald’s take: I have no problem admitting that this cover is the first I’ve ever heard of Get Scared. The cover is pretty harmless, as the band’s “Diet A Day to Remember” sound accents the song well enough for it to be listenable. Nicholas Matthews doesn’t quite have the vocal chops showcased on the original, but given the fact that the band’s fans are too young to even know about the original (what a scary thought that is), this will likely be a huge hit on Warped Tour. Surprisingly, I’m one song in and I don’t hate myself for listening to Punk Goes 90s, Vol. 2. It’s a miracle!
Memphis May Fire – “Interstate Love Song” (originally performed by Stone Temple Pilots)
Donald’s take: I just… I don’t get it. How did Memphis May Fire get to be as popular as they are? What did they have to do to get to Main Stage Warped Tour last summer? Why are they covering the Stone Temple Pilots? So many unanswered questions, so little time. Anyway, this is the 3rd or 4th Punk Goes release they’ve been on, last seen covering Bruno Mars’s “Grenade.” What starts out as chug-tastic, watered-down version of the original actually breaks open to a pretty impressive ending, that I definitely wasn’t expecting. Uh oh, two covers that I don’t completely despise? There’s no way this can last…
Asking Alexandria – “Closer” (originally performed by Nine Inch Nails)
Donald’s take: Leave it to the Asking Alexandria, the most obnoxious band in Warped-core today, to dash any hopes of this being a worthwhile release. Tackling one of the best songs by one of the most influential bands in rock music today, the band crumble under the sheer weight of Nine Inch Nails’s good name. I’m convinced they only chose this song so they could record its profanity-laiden, sexually charged chorus. The cover is actually pretty straightforward until Danny Worsnop’s screams make in unlistenable.
The Color Morale – “Everlong” (originally performed by Foo Fighters)
Donald’s take: Very quietly, The Color Morale have pulled themselves out of the muck of same-sounding metalcore and become a very respectable. This “Everlong” cover may be the clearest evidence of that, as the band begin with a stripped-down sound before bursting into the song’s first chorus with their metal-tinged rock sound. Vocalist Garret Rapp deserves a huge amount of praise for not muddling the track with his screams, opting to sing the entire song, which really helps him show off his impressive range. Color me impressed with this one.
Donald’s take: I really don’t like this band. They have a stupid name, they make really bad music, and this cover is terrible. And that’s all I have to say about that.
Mayday Parade – “Comedown” (originally performed by Bush)
Donald’s take: We’ve reached the portion of our review where I tell you about how Mayday Parade is on yet another Punk Goes release. Their cover of “Comedown” is about as straightforward as it gets, but that’s a pretty big compliment to the improvements the band have made musically over the years. They can now carry your attention pretty well over a five-minute-plus track, and while it’s not their best cover (that goes to their cover of Gotye’s “Somebody that I used to Know” with Vic Fuentes), it’s certainly not their worst (they did Queen’s “We are the Champions,” and it’s as bad as you think).
Donald’s take: Industrial metal rip-off band covers industrial metal classic. Cover is predictably bad, but will likely do very well with the band’s fans on Warped Tour because of the ~nostalgia. Motionless in White are another band whose popularity I can’t seem to comprehend, and this cover does nothing to sway my opinion either way. Let’s move along quickly, shall we?
Yellowcard – “Today” (originally performed by Smashing Pumpkins)
Donald’s take: Let’s see who we’ve got? Some generic metalcore bands, a few up-and-comers, Mayday Parade… wait a minute, YELLOWCARD?! What brings you here? What a pleasant surprise! Your cover of “Today” is pretty good (as expected), and thanks for picking a band of that caliber. It’ll help fans appreciate your talents as musicians even more. I’m a little upset though, because it looks like this is the last song we’ll ever hear longtime drummer LP play with you guys. But anyway, thanks for doing this. See you on Warped this summer!
Hands Like Houses – “Torn” (originally performed by Natalie Imbruglia)
Donald’s take: After quietly releasing one of the best albums of 2013, Hands Like Houses return with a cover that appears to be an early front-runner as one of the year’s best. Trenton Woodley’s vocals are perfect for Natalie Imbruglia’s delivery, and he picked the perfect song to highlight his unique track. The band behind Woodley prove to be chameleons as well, blending their post-hardcore sound perfectly with the powerful pop hooks on the track. Hands Like Houses deserves the amount of fans that Memphis May Fire and Motionless in White don’t deserve (which is a lot).
The Ghost Inside – “Southtown” (originally performed by P.O.D.)
Donald’s take: Hardcore darlings The Ghost Inside are inexplicably on this compilation, and although they creatively picked a band with perhaps the most peculiar level of popularity in the 90s/early 2000s, they went a little into left field by picking a song that, as Craig pointed out to me, never reached the top 30 rock tracks when it was released, and never charted on the pop charts at all. Luckily, P.O.D.’s style lends itself very favorably to The Ghost Inside’s wheelhouse, and Jonathan Vigil’s howls and growls accent the track perfectly, adding a little extra emotion throughout the track. I’ll admit I’ve never been a huge The Ghost Inside fan, but this cover was pretty cool.
Donald’s take: Be patient, everyone. I know it’s difficult. Ronnie Radke isn’t making it easy for any of us. I wish I had answers. I wish I could tell you why people in the music industry still put this guy out onstage in front of impressionable young children, polluting their minds with his smut and garbage. But think about it like this: it always catches up with you. It happened to Lindsay Lohan, it happened to Amanda Bynes, it’s happening to Justin Bieber, and it will keep happening to people who think they’re above everyone else. I promise. Someday, someone or something will put this riot-inducing, woman-punching, mic-stand-chucking, twitter-abusing, ignorance-spewing white boy on the beat in his place. It’s as inevitable as the sunrise. But until then, we just have to pretend he doesn’t exist and let the situation play itself out. For now, we’re stuck with him.
Oh yeah, this cover is horrible.
Ice Nine Kills – “Good Riddance (Time Of Your Life)” (originally performed by Green Day)
Donald’s take: “How do we want this album to end?”
“With the most cliche 90s song ever, of course!”
That is what I can only imagine to be the actual conversation for why Ice Nine Kills chose this song.They are a “heavy” band by nature, so the choice to do a completely acoustic song and make it into a full-band re-imagining is puzzling. It takes guts to do what Ice Nine Kills did, and if they were, I don’t know, better, it might have worked. But it didn’t, and Punk Goes 90s, Vol. 2 ends on a very, very sour note because of it.
Donald’s final take: I mean, what’s left to say. Some covers are good, some are a little surprising, but most are completely forgettable. This series really can be saved, as long as Fearless Records takes some drastic steps. A few possible solutions would be to hold out for some better bands instead of just trying to get the current “buzz bands”, not releasing one every year so that it doesn’t feel so over-saturated when a new one comes out, or my personal favorite, not doing this anymore. Regardless, this isn’t likely to happen, but at least we have some good material like the covers turned in by Hands Like Houses, Yellowcard, Mayday Parade and The Ghost Inside to fill us with false hope. If you really want to listen to this, go for it, but don’t blame me if you give up halfway through.