Album: Punk Goes Pop 5
Label: Fearless Records
For many naysayers, rock and metal is a world of hysterics, hedonism, excess; plagued by madness and racked by beleaguered insanity. For the rest of us, such noisy confines are merely what we call home. However, this view, and the widely-held notion among fans of more popular music that the alternative genre is too inaccessible and peculiar, becomes questionable when one considers quite how much lunacy seems to be celebrated in the mainstream media. Obsessive love songs, neediness, clinginess, irrational decision-making and even slight stalker tendencies have all fuelled smash hits in recent years. And, when one hears rock and metal bands take them on in more characteristically gruff and uncompromising fashion, these innards and subtexts come right to the fore.
Enter the imaginatively-named fifth album in the Punk Goes Pop series, which features names such as Memphis May Fire, Craig Owens, Breathe Carolina, and The Maine tackling songs from the likes of Bruno Mars, Michael Jackson, Gym Class Heroes, and Gotye. The inclusion of Gym Class Heroes is a little odd, as I wouldn’t have considered them strictly pop myself, and the treatment of their track “Ass Back Home” off last year’s excellent The Papercut Chronicles II is a little sub-par given the quality of the original. That said, Punk Goes Pop 5 is an absurdly fun collection of covers, all given the pristinely demented treatment they deserve. Practically all the bands featured are able to breathe new life into the tracks they cover, bringing a delicious insanity to hitherto charming pop odes. Others inject unchecked levels of derangement, unearthing madness in the unlikeliest of places.
On this note, Upon This Dawning’s cover of “Call Me Maybe” is awesome. I apologise for the generic word use, but it really is some bit of craic (to adopt the parlance of my people). The band use some synth effects to thrust the latter half of the song through a vortex of raving bewilderment, while the death metal-style grunting that shudders through the pop hooks of the verses gives everything a delightfully demented sheen. If you don’t find this hilariously entertaining – and in particular, the addition of a marvellously-timed ‘fuck’ – there may be something wrong with you. My beloved Bruno Mars’s “Grenade” gets the Memphis May Fire treatment and in so doing, becomes an unwitting advocate for pop-punk as his emotionally charged ballad is dressed up as something wild and feral. The energy the band bring to the cover is infectious; their interpretation aggressively and charmingly precocious.
Mayday Parade bring a frank optimism to their cover of “Somebody That You Used to Know” while We Came As Romans entirely revamp “Glad You Came” by The Wanted. It’s spaced and psychedelic, deliberately evoking the trancelike state implied by the lyrics. The vocal interplay is really fun and complements the cover’s big, unbridled sound. Issues take on “Boyfriend” by the Biebz (I had kind of hoped it would be Ashlee Simpson’s song of the same name), keeping all the leering, slightly unsettling vibes and making it a tad more seductive. Or at least, acceptably seductive. It sounds like a spruced up boyband release in its mix of stylised violence and sordid imagery, which is presumably the idea, and quite entertaining. The Maine’s approach to “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun” by Cyndi Lauper is a surprising one. It’s a rather sombre and downcast take, making the track sound more like a wretched plea for frivolity. This is interesting as it exposes some of the darker undertones of the original, which is more oft-cited as an uplifting, spirited track. The moody singing provides a brief respite from the depravity elsewhere and makes this track that much more intriguing.
Not all the covers succeed – Breathe Carolina’s rendition of “Billie Jean” misses the mark entirely and Crown the Empire’s “Payphone” sounds a touch too awkward and try-hard. But they are the clear exceptions to an otherwise gleefully bombastic anthology and one that ought to bring more light-hearted entertainment to any get together. Highly recommended listening for when one needs a day off.
Review written by Grace Duffy