In 1995, MXPX released On The Cover, an EP consisting of a handful of covers. The fans really dug it, and have been on the band for years to do another. Fast forward a number of years greater than the life of many bands, and MXPX has kicked out On The Cover II, a record largely celebrating the music of the ‘80s, music that helped lay the groundwork for many pop punk bands, MXPX included.
I’ll admit, I am a sucker for punk covers, especially when the song was not a punk tune to begin with, and the band puts a total new spin on it (like with Spark is A Diamond’s take on Salt-N-Pepa’s “Push It” last year.
That being said, I wasn’t 100% sure what to expect from this record. A full record of cover tunes by one band could be really good; like hearing a new record by a band you like, and already knowing the songs at first play. On the other hand, if it’s just a record of a band covering another band’s tunes without really doing anything to them – that could get old really quick.
I’m really pleased to admit that MXPX did exactly what they needed to do with this record, though. Each song is unique; they neither sound like MXPX doing someone else’s songs, nor do they sound like MXPX imitating someone else. The sound of every track is situated nicely between those two options, and many of the tracks are accentuated nicely with guest vocalists and musicians.
It’s quite difficult to even pick the best track from this record, as each song has certain elements that make them distinct and fun. And as blasphemous as it sounds, MXPX did a respectable job on the punk standards that appear on this record, too.
Their take on “Punk Rock Girl” is true to the original, with the admirable addition of a full-blown accordion solo from Matt Hensley of Flogging Molly, and while their take on the Clash’s “Should I Stay Or Should I Go” is pretty typical for what you’d hear from any cover band in any local dive bar on any given Friday night, MXPX has been performing it regularly over the years with guitarist Tom Wisniewski on vocals, and this recording marks the first time he’s been put on record taking lead vocals.
The ’80s tunes are just as much fun as the punk standards are, even if you didn’t like them the first time around. “Heaven Is A Place On Earth,” which with the addition of Agent M of Tsunami Bomb on vocals and a revved-up sound, puts the original to shame – although out of deference to my love for Belinda Carlisle’s earlier work, I will also say that MXPX’s version of “Vacation” doesn’t touch the Go-Gos, but not every track can be a winner.
Rounding out the winners on this record would be the two trashiest songs – Poison’s “Fallen Angel” and Queen’s “Somebody to Love,” both of which are suitably majestic, with the perfect amounts of punk and glam and a generous sprinkling of guest musicians and vocals on each. They’re simply satisfying, without a hint of bubblegum.
The one track that isn’t like the other would be The Blue Hearts’ “Linda Linda,” but that’s not in a bad way. A now-defunct Japanese punk band, perhaps MXPX’s inclusion of a Blue Hearts tune will help expand the horizons of their fans, and toward Japanese punk in general.
All in all, the record is really good. It’s not groundbreaking (but what covers album truly is?) but it’s a lot of fun, and while not every song really seems to hit the mark, almost all of them do, making this album a good one to spin at your next party or on a late-night road trip.
Release Date: March 24, 2009
Track Listing (with Original Artists and Guest Appearances)
1. Dead Milkmen – “Punk Rock Girl” (featuring Matt Hensley of Flogging Molly on accordion)
2.The Ramones – “My Brain is Hanging Upside Down (Bonzo Goes to Bitburg)”
3. U2 – “I Will Follow”
4. Descendents - Suburban Home
5. The Proclaimers – “(Im Gonna Be) 500 Miles”
6. The Go-Gos – “Vacation”
7. Belinda Carlisle – “Heaven Is a Place on Earth” (duet with Agent M of Tsunami Bomb/The Action Design)
8. Kim Wilde – “Kids In America”
9. Poison – “Fallen Angel” (with additional vocals from Craig Owen of Chiodos and guitar solo by Stephen Egerton of Descendents)
10. The Clash – “Should I Stay or Should I Go”
11. The Blue Hearts – “Linda Linda”
12. Queen – “Somebody to Love” (with additional vocals, piano, and keyboard by Bryce Avary of The Rocket Summer and guitar solo from Ethan Luck of Relient K)