Various Artists | Just Like Heaven: A Tribute to the Cure (American Laundromat Records)

justlikeheaven.jpgHow much mileage you’ll get out of Just Like Heaven: A Tribute to the Cure hinges on how much you can tolerate bands playing with or subverting the Cure’s standard formula.

 

 

 

Despite being one of the most popular and influential bands of the last few decades, it’s amazing just how singular the Cure’s sound is, and more than a few bands have fallen flat on their face trying to capture Robert Smith’s beautifully morose soundscapes and lovelorn lyrics. How much mileage you’ll get out of Just Like Heaven: A Tribute to the Cure hinges on how much you can tolerate bands playing with or subverting the Cure’s standard formula.

A perfect example of the more interesting variations Just Like Heaven offers is "The Lovecats." Tanya Donnelly (formerly of Belly, the Breeders, and Throwing Muses) and Dylan in the Movies (a.k.a. Boston-based musician Brian Sullivan) re-imagine the Cure’s jazz-flavored original as a swirling, Tom Waits-worthy groove, with Donnelly playing her girlish, sex kitten coo off of Sullivan’s guttural growl. Elsewhere, the Brunettes add even more open air to the already spacious "Lovesong" with an arrangement that plays up the detached vocals and some much rowdier clap-stomp drums, while Cassettes Won’t Listen drench "Let’s Go To Bed" with blippy synths straight off a 1980s dancefloor.

The album ends with a string of its finest songs. The Poems do wondrous work in re-casting "10:15 Saturday Night" as a Bjork-meets-Cibo Matto chillout session. Violet Clark and Black Francis, working under the name Grand Duchy, do the best job of recreating the Cure’s trademark sound by remaking the lesser-known Pornography track "A Strange Day" into something that would have slid right into the band’s latter-‘80s heyday, right down to the lengthy, gorgeous instrumental intro. The Wedding Present succeeds in finding the middle ground between the Cure and the Pogues on a punked-up take on "High," and Dala offers up "Lovesong" again in an unlisted bonus track, this time as a heart-on-sleeve piano ballad.

There are a few complete misfires, particularly when the artists aim for the type of slow dirge that the Cure did so well and miss the mark entirely, as exemplified by  by Julie Peel’s plodding "A Night Like This." Two songs from the Cure’s edgy, punky debut get this treatment back to back: Luff turns "Jumping Someone Else’s Train" into something akin to Pixies’ "Where Is My Mind?" while the Submarines drop the tempo way down on "Boys Don’t Cry." But despite completely reinventing the songs, these new takes are more boring than compelling. Kitty Karlyle go the Me First & the Gimme Gimmes route by trying to turn "In Between Days" into a pop-punk song, but they don’t kick the tempo up enough and the results pale in comparison to Cali-punkers Face to Face’s take on the same song on their 2001 album Standards & Practices.

The album’s biggest disappointment comes when Dean & Britta (better known as Dean Wareham and Britta Phillips of Luna) take on "Friday I’m in Love." The pair is well known for their wonderful covers, but this one is a complete misfire, as if they don’t "get" what the song is about at all and just recast it as if it were one of their own. Where Smith’s original encapsulates the feeling of being giddily, sickly, overwhelmingly in love, Wareham doesn’t sound so much in love as he does asleep.

The remainder of the album is much more straightforward. The opening take on the title track by Joy Zipper is a near note-for-note remake of the original with boy-girl harmony vocals; it’s decent, but lacks the majesty of the original, or of Dinosaur Jr.’s masterful take, for that matter. They aren’t the only ones to go the note-for-note route, either, with little to differentiate "The Walk" (The Rosebuds), "Catch" (Devics), or "Pictures of You" (Elizabeth Harper & the Matinee) from their original incarnation though all are certainly pleasant enough (particularly the latter two, thanks to the beautiful voices of their singers). Elk City’s "Close To Me" doesn’t venture far, but places a heavier accent on the drums and adds some nice atmospherics to the song’s back half.

Of course when it comes down to it, being a tribute album, none of these new covers holds a candle to the original versions, but diehard Cure fans may get a fair bit of mileage out of some of the more unique transformations that Just Like Heaven has to offer. C+ | Jason Green

 

Sample 6 songs from Just Like Heaven: A Tribute to the Cure at http://www.myspace.com/atributetothecure

 

 

Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply