Stop Us If You've Heard This One Before, Vol. 1by The Wildhearts
Following a decade of drug problems, behind the scenes fractions, and a never-ending merry go round of lineup changes, it's quite a feat that Newcastle hard rockers the Wildhearts have managed to remain intact now for two consecutive albums. While their small but loyal fan base might be disappointed that the follow-up to their 2007 self-titled offering is a covers LP, the majority of material on Stop Us If You've Heard This One Before, Vol. 1 is so obscure that Ginger and co. could have gotten away with passing it off as their own. Indeed, despite name-checking the likes of the Sex Pistols, the Ramones, and Kurt Cobain on the 1994 Suckerpunch B-side "29 x The Pain," none of its 15 widely-known covers are given the authentically chaotic Wildhearts treatment. There are a few nods to relatively mainstream acts such as a surprisingly faithful performance of Welsh neo-psychedelics Super Furry Animals' 1998 mullet-inspired hit single "Ice Hockey Hair," a straightforward cover of Grammy Award-winners Soul Asylum's 1986 While You Were Out's "The Judge," and a retooling of the Icicle Works' 1986 minor hit single "Understanding Jane," which turns the epic new wave original into a blink-182-esque slice of turbo charged punk-pop. But elsewhere, the 15 tracks here read like a who's-who of '80s and '90s underground alt-rock, which apart from former Scottish touring mates Baby Chaos ("Rearrange You") and Australian indie trio Regurgitator ("Everyday Formula"), unexpectedly focus on punk, metal, and rock sounds to distinguish themselves from their American contemporaries. While their renditions of Washington post-hardcore outfit Fugazi's "Waiting Room," California's punk rockers the Descendents' "Pep Talk," and Seattle grungers Foil's "AC Rocket" are just as blisteringly melodic and guitar-crunching as the originals, Wildhearts' signature sound is already so similar that it renders the album's whole concept rather pointless. Only their energetic thrash rock interpretation of sardonic singer/songwriter Warren Zevon's haunting ballad "Carmelita," a rather appropriate tale of a heroin-addicted writer, attempts to differentiate itself from the source material. While no one would be expecting the Wildhearts to start covering Girls Aloud or Usher, a little more variety akin to fellow rockers Queensrÿche's Take Cover or Rage Against the Machine's Renegades, wouldn't have gone amiss. Stop Us If You've Heard This One Before, Vol. 1 is a passable if unremarkable stop-gap album but if, as its title suggests, it's to be the first in a series, the band would do to delve a little deeper into their record collection next time round.
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