Almost universally maligned as a once-relevant band’s career-twilight last-ditch stab at relevancy, the all-covers album more often than not allows a bereft-of-inspiration artist to court a last gasp of sweet, sweet mainstream success by promising songs the listener already knows and loves, and not those pesky tepid originals that said artist has been peddling for the past twenty years or so to increasingly-diminishing returns. And all under the guise of “paying tribute to our idols, man”. Seems like, to court a modicum of respect from the discerning listener, the covers album should come relatively early in the career. Joss Stone’s still thriving after kick-starting her success with a raw, diamonds-in-the-rough covers record, and people don’t seem to mind so much that she can’t write a good song of her own, so thorough is the goodwill engendered by The Soul Sessions.
But recording an album of Motown or Tin Pan Alley standards makes sense for an artist like Rod Stewart, who cribbed so thoroughly from those playbooks even in his most creatively fruitful days that the leap seems like a natural extension. How, then, do we explain Puddle of Mudd and Powerman 5000, two forgotten remnants of the alt-rock resurgence of the millennium’s turn, dropping cover albums nobody asked for on the same day?
In Puddle of Mudd’s case, that’s an easy answer: sheer laziness. But then again, Puddle of Mudd have always been a reasonably lazy band, one that aped the “grunge” scene at a time when third-wave rehashes of the Seattle scene were en vogue, ripping song dynamics and vocal tone straight from Nirvana’s playbook and applying them directly to stupefyingly dull stadium-rock. When you consider, then, what PoM’s modus operandi has always been, then – uninspired reduction – their covers record is far from bewildering. In fact, it’s downright organic, the way PoM slavishly ape their influences without the single glint of an original thought.
Which doesn’t mean Re:(disc)overed is any good. Forget, for a second, your preconceived notions of Puddle of Mudd; forget that this is literally the stupidest album title of all time by anyone ever (and remember, we live in a universe where Weezer released an album entitled Raditude); forget that the tracklist looks like the lunch hour at your local classic-rock radio station, literally the most obvious choices for a classic-rock compilation that doesn’t involve Queen; and forget, again, that this is still the stupidest album title of all time by anyone ever (seriously, why the superfluous punctuation? does the colon after the “re” imply that this is a response to something? if so, what? why isolate the “disc” parenthetically? what does that mean?). All these things are true, but none moreso than this: these are simple cut-and-pastes of their original incarnations. The guitar tone remains the same. Every little vocal ad-lib is intact. These might be the original versions, if there were any vocal verve or a drop of passion involved. Puddle of Mudd don’t even copy these songs into their own milieu (which would at least make sense, although it would still be really quite bad). They merely recreate them. There’s a background vocalist doing her damnedest to emulate Merry Clayton on “Gimme Shelter”. Singer Wes Scantlin apes Bon Scott’s patented “I’m totally having sex RIGHT NOW” vocal tone on AC/DC’s “T.N.T.” Scantlin even takes a stab at “Rocket Man”, hilariously failing as he tries to shriek up the scales to Elton John’s immaculate falsetto notes.
There’s literally nothing interesting about Re:(disc)overed and, therefore, nothing interesting to say about it. It’s literally the least inessential record of all time. One gains nothing from listening; quite literally nothing, as these songs are not only obvious enough choices that you know them all anyway, but they’re simple recreations of these oft-played songs. This isn’t an album, it’s a night of karaoke with a perfunctory vocalist at the helm. It’s not even hilariously bad enough to make fun of, like an M. Night Shyamalan movie or a Hinder record; the ears perk up when Scantlin applies his Cobain-lite shtick to Led Zep’s “D’yer Mak’er”, but even that ends up boring and interminable. There is literally no reason for anyone that has ever existed in this universe to purchase Re:(disc)overed.
In other news, Powerman 5000 still exist; if you remember them, it’s likely because a.) they’re fronted by Rob Zombie’s little brother, or b.) you vaguely recall their lone hit “When Worlds Collide”. They got lost in the shuffle, or perhaps they were too niche – they were a mild, metal-ish troupe that delighted in sci-fi lore like the elder Zombie with his horror tropes. Which sounds fun, and honestly, PM5K were nothing if not goofy and lightweight. Their record of other peoples’ songs is called Copies, Clones, & Replicants, which is at least a fun way for guys who love aliens and robots to title a covers album. And it probably comes as no surprise that it’s significantly better than Puddle of Mudd’s slog of a record.
Which isn’t to say that Copies, Clones, & Replicants is particularly good – it’s not. But at least they go a little deeper, skewing slightly closer to the kind of synth-pop and spacey rock that seems to suit them. A hilariously melodramatic faux-industrial take on “Should I Stay Or Should I Go” is one highlight; a crunchy, aggro rendition of “Electric Avenue” is another. PM5K have no problem slathering on the cheese, turning the beat of Devo’s “Whip It” into an extended metal breakdown, or double-timing The Fixx’s immortal “One Thing Leads To Another” with finesse. The results are more miss than hit, true – stabs at Van Halen’s “Jump” and Twisted Sister’s “We’re Not Gonna Take It” are particularly chortle-y, what with their ridiculous instrumentals that seem to be at odds with any discernible sense of vocal rhythm or melody – but at least they fail with flair, and have a semi-unique sound that they can apply to these familiar tracks.
And that’s more than can be said of Puddle of Mudd. Copies, Clones, & Replicants is inessential, sure – it’s the dubious “appeal” of Orgy’s “Blue Monday” cover stretched to album length, really – but at least it’s got personality. And at least it’s not Re:(disc)overed.
Grade, Re:(disc)overed: F
Grade, Copies, Clones, & Replicants: C-