A decade ago, Fearless Records started the Punk Goes… series with the first installment, Punk Goes Metal. On that first installment, a rather admirable array of bands that included Guttermouth, AFI and Dieselboy delivered their take on classic metal tracks. Now, 10 years later, the series has reached its 9th release with Punk Goes Classic Rock and, after hearing it, I am left with the question – is punk really going anywhere right now?
I’ll admit, I’m a sucker for punk covers when they’re done right. A punk cover can go in all sorts of directions; it can be cheeky and funny, it can be done ironically, or it can be done in a way that improves upon the original and makes it a better song.
None of the tracks on Punk Goes Classic Rock really do any of this.
Part of the problem is the choice of “punk” bands for this album. This time around, Fearless has opted for a big pile of squeaky clean pop punk kids’ bands. And when you hear Hit The Lights cover Boston’s “More Than A Feeling,” A Skylit Drive do Journey’s “Separate Ways,” or Every Avenue do Eddie Money’s “Take Me Home Tonight,” the impression you get is not one of a punk band manhandling a classic rock tune. Instead it simply makes it more painfully clear that these bands are really the modern day versions of Boston, Journey and Eddie Money (albeit with the occasional annoying screamo verse).
Over and over, these versions are destroyed with slickly produced pop pablum intended to sell records to the junior high set. The Summer Set polishes “Rock n’ Roll All Nite” by KISS into something that would be great for the next sequel to High School The Musical, Pierce the Veil’s “Don’t Fear the Reaper” is an overproduced trainwreck where nice punk riffs and accomplished guitar work are eclipsed by boyband vocals, and Never Shout Never does the one thing that everyone old enough to get into a karaoke bar learned long ago – don’t cover “Bohemian Rhapsody.” Just don’t.
Some of the tracks are almost palatable, and one is even good - the gritty swagger that Envy On The Coast delivers with "All Along the Watchtower" - but these moments are few and far between and sandwiched between stuff so bad they're not worth seeking out.
At SXSW 2007, Dead Kennedys frontman/Alternative Tentacles founder Jello Biafra attacked the current crop of pop punk bands, calling them "the Eagles with loud guitars," proclaiming that "punk was created to end the Eagles, not repackage them." Punk Goes Classic Rock truly proves the veracity of his painful claim. It's probably an album that will sell 8 billion copies, but it's going to be to a younger demographic, the type that these bands are produced for in the first place. There are plenty of really sensational punk covers out there, but none of them are here.
The Only Track Worth Your While: Envy On The Coast - "All Along the Watchtower" (Listen/Download)
Release Date: April 27, 2010