Monday, October 24, 2011

"Come As You Are: a 20th Anniversary Tribute to Nirvana's Nevermind" (album review)

We've had a couple of Nirvana tributes in this, the 20th year since the release of their paradigm-shifting Nevermind.  The latest is this compilation from Reimagine Music, which comes out on October 25th.

Like many tribute albums, the artists who are the most successful with their versions are those who take the original song and add their own interpretation.  That's no different with this album.

Spacey and slowed down seems to be the approach of choice.  The Autumn Leaf's "On A Plain", The Dutch Masters' "Smells Like Teen Spirit" and Will Dailey's stripped down "Territorial Pissings" all do that effectively.  Margot & the Nuclear So-and-Sos manange to take "Something In The Way", a song I never cared for, and fleshed out the arrangement, improving it vastly.

Great indie/country/southern rock outfit Murder By Death turn "Lounge Act" into an even darker number, this time with a hint of Middle Eastern flair.  The album's standout comes from mewithoutyou, who combine Kermit The Frog-esque vocals with a nearly acoustic arrangement for an incredible version of "In Bloom".

Trying to slow things down doesn't really work for Civil Twilight.  The overwhelming feeling the listener takes away from their version of "Come As You Are" is boredom.

There are some artists who decided to stick more closely to Nirvana's script, with middling-to-mediocre results.  Pitty's rendition of "Stay Away" does a decent job with the arrangement, but the vocals are sorely lacking in umph.  Atrocious Canadian band Finger Eleven provide a listless straight-forward walk through "Polly".  Hawthorne Heights' cover of "Lithium", my personal favorite from Nevermind, can only be described as passable.

One of the few bands to strike a balance between these approaches is Maps & Atlases.  For their version of "Drain You", they apply a more D.I.Y. production to the song, coming up with something fresh without having to sacrifice the power of the original.

The inclusion of Anthony Raneri's "About A Girl" is a little odd, since it wasn't actually on Nevermind.

Tribute albums are a hit and miss proposition at the best of times.  Come As You Are is no exception.  However, in this case I'm happy to report that there are more hits than misses.

Best tracks: "In Bloom", "Territorial Pissings"

Track listing for Come As You Are:
  • Smells Like Teen Spirit- The Dutch Masters
  • In Bloom- mewithoutyou
  • Come As You Are- Civil Twilight
  • Breed- Story Of The Year
  • Lithium- Hawthorne Heights
  • Polly- Finger Eleven
  • Territorial Pissings- Will Dailey
  • Drain You- Maps & Atlases
  • Lounge Act- Murder By Death
  • Stay Away- Pitty
  • On A Plain- The Autumn Leaf
  • Something In The Way- Margot & the Nuclear So-and-Sos
  • About A Girl- Anthony Raneri
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