Various Artists

A Tribute To Alkaline Trio

Written by: PP on 30/08/2011 21:04:01

We're getting tons of Alkaline Trio coverage done lately, and here's the latest one: Pacific Ridge Records have put together a tribute album to the seminal melodic punk legends where small and independent bands had the chance to come in and record a song of PRR's choice in their own terms. The result is a mammoth two disc, 39-track compilation spreading over two hours, which sees lots and lots of unknown and medium-sized bands take a shot at re-creating the magical melodies of Alkaline Trio, and given the gigantic track listing, chances are that your original favorites are covered, especially since the focus seems to be on the older classics rather than the latest two albums. Good on them.

But that's not the only reason why this tribute is interesting. Firstly, its $1500 recording budget was funded entirely through Kickstarter, a crowd-sourcing platform where fans can pledge to donate a pre-determined amount of money and receive a reward based on their investment. For instance, if you donated $500, an Alkaline Trio song of your choice would be recorded for the album. $10 would simply get you the album on its release date, and $20 would entitle you to an advance copy of the record prior to the release date. Neat, huh? Secondly, we've just seen Alkaline Trio 'cover' their own songs on "Damnesia" last month, so that creates an interesting contrast between their own re-imagined versions of the songs and the ones by other bands.

The artists involved in this project range from the fairly known bands like The Wonder Years, Washington Square Park, Future Idiots, Into It. Over It., Punchline, My Arcadia and Bright & Early to bands that I personally haven't heard of even by name, but that was the point all along: the idea was to showcase young and independent bands by having them imitate their idols. And these bands each take their own approach to covering Alkaline Trio. Bright & Early, for instance, play a faithful cover of "Stupid Kid" that's not too different from the original, and a lot of other bands also opted for the easy choice. These tracks are generally safe-bets for good tracks because as long as the vocalist sounds melodic and sings with passion, there's very little you can do to mess up a song like, say "My Little Needle" or "You're Dead".

Another group of bands is one that usually writes quieter and softer music, so they've translated the songs into an acoustic or a semi-acoustic format akin to Alkaline Trio's own "Damnesia". A few of these are alright, but like I noted in my "Damnesia" review, slowing down punk songs into acoustic format takes away a lot of the energy. The Promise Hero's take on "Sorry About That", for instance, isn't very interesting, and Jonah Matranga's uber-slowed down version of "I'm Dying Tomorrow" takes away the emotional intensity of the song altogether, but at the same time, some of the singer-songwriter versions like Joe Wilson's "Goodbye Forever" sound good. I'm standing on a fence on these, I suppose.

The most interesting group of bands, however, are the ones that have taken their covering duties a step further, giving their own personal flavor and ideas freedom to influence the songs as they see fit. Generally, the raw versions of "Cop" by Washington Square Park and "My Friend Peter" by Still Rings True sound awesome, because we simply haven't heard Alk3 songs this heavy in the past. "Bleeder", by The Material, introduces another interesting element in the form of a female singer, who makes the track sound like a Paramore cut because of the girl-power vocals. She's a good singer, and based on this track alone, they seem to be a band writing down for further investigation. But there are also risks in playing around with great melodies that relied so much on the punk dynamic, as Punchline found out in their god-awful electro rock version of "If You Had A Bad Time". It's a disaster, and should've been scrapped (Ramona's "You've Got So Far To Go" is equally horrible rendition for any Alkaline Trio fan). Similarly, the country/punkabilly version of "Another Innocent Girl" by Rattlesnake Gunfight is definitely a miss, because busy banjo(?)-induced instrumentals just doesn't go hand-in-hand with melodic punk very well.

But my biggest criticism of the tribute has to be the relative similarity of all the bands involved. Nearly all of them sound like they're fronted by either a Dan Andriano or a Matt Skiba clone, or at least by a 'safe bet' vocalist, so lots of potential is lost on that alone. A much more interesting perspective would've been gained by mixing things up a little with a few hardcore bands, a few metal bands, and perhaps even a couple of post-hardcore/emo bands each translating the songs into their own respective styles and genres. It would've allowed us to see the strength of the melodies in different formats, whereas now we just get to hear what we already know: Alkaline Trio writes some damn good songs, and most bands on this compilation are small and unknown for a good reason.

Download: "Cop" by Washington Square Park, "My Friend Peter" by Still Rings True
For the fans of: Alkaline Trio, indie/acoustic, punk goes... series
Listen: Bandcamp

Release date 30.08.2011
Pacific Ridge Records

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