Musical tributes are a joke to industry
November 22, 2002
Until five years ago, a band had to do something really special or make
an invaluable contribution to music to warrant a tribute record.
Judging by today's gratuitous influx of tribute albums, a band simply
has to exist, and some indie label will assemble a roster of 12 bands of
whom no one has ever heard of to pay "homage."
Exactly why this phenomenon interests anyone is a mystery to me, especially
after sitting down and listening to several tribute records. Sure, the cover
song has been around since the dawn of popular music, but do we really need
a roster of every obscure band that band X has influenced?
Still, the format is selling, as proven by the sad fact that tribute
records are pouring into stores at a rate of several a month.
Even sadder is the fact that the vast majority of these cover collections
are downright terrible, and even the strongest ones only offer a few decent
renditions sandwiched between those that massacre the original.
Furthermore, most of these "tributes" are completely unnecessary,
tired attempts made by a small label who wish to make some cash by capitalizing
on the fame of a large band they wish they had on their roster.
The bands on these comps are also guilty of exploiting a band they purport
to love to further their own career.
No one has ever heard of Chewie, but if Chewie records a Weezer song
for the "Chodeblower: A Tribute To Weezer," compilation, they
are guaranteed an amount of publicity and exposure they could otherwise
Therefore, instead of using Weezer's music as inspiration for making
uplifting tunes of their own, Chewie is in fact capitalizing on Weezer's
popularity to begin their career.
Consider the fact that Weezer already has two tribute records in wide
release, with a third on the way. Keep in mind, both of these were released
before Weezer's "Maladroit" even hit the stores, so the bands
on these compilations were choosing from a pool of only 30 commercially
Turned into two 14-song tribute records, what we basically have is 28
bands essentially re-recording Weezer's studio legacy. If Weezer influenced
these bands so much, why would they feel it was necessary to redo the band's
entire catalog? Some fans.
The worst part of all this is that very few bands on these tributes
actually do anything but play the song note for note, making the affair
even more pointless.
Any group of serious musicians should be able to see that if they haven't
been inspired enough to put any of their own soul into a cherished song,
they obviously haven't been inspired very much at all.
Among the more absurd cover fare on the market is a tribute to System
of a Down, who have only released two albums, and a series of instrumental
string quartet tributes to artists ranging from Tool to Incubus. Ever wondered
what "Hooker With A Penis" would sound like on cello and harp?
Nope, me neither.
As for Incubus, they already have a tribute record out and it received
a considerable amount of undeserved notoriety. Remember? It was called "Hoobastank."
If you must dive into the tribute record bin, I can only recommend a
small handful. The best, and one of the few whose artists demonstrate actual
respect and admiration for the band, is "For The Masses: A Tribute
To Depeche Mode." With standout renditions from Deftones and Smashing
Pumpkins, as well as a version of "Enjoy The Silence" by Failure
that is better than the original, "For The Masses" would make
any Depeche Mode fan proud, and I would imagine the band themselves are
quite pleased by it.
For mindless fun, track down "Grunge Lite," a collection of
Muzak renditions of the best rock of the early 90's.
The novelty wears off after a couple of listens, but if you own an elevator,
and would like to add "Smells Like Teen Spirit" to your play list,
this is a disc for you.
So, who is the, um, winner? That would be Metallica, with over a dozen
tribute albums dedicated to them. With that said, don't buy any of them,
they are all terrible.
As silly as the tribute trend has become, it has inspired me, so I would
like to invite local bands to submit their demos for a series of tribute
albums I am putting together:
·"The Songs of Kurt Cobain: A Tribute to Hole"
·"Leather Pants Went Out 10 Years Ago: A Tribute To Creed"
·"Hooked On Phonics: A Tribute to Papa Roach"
·"Insipid Lyrics Screeched By an Irritating Whiner: A Tribute
·"Is She Supposed to Be Blondie or Lil' Kim? Either Way,
Please, Just Make Her Stop: A Tribute To No Doubt"
·"Ha, Ha, Your Career Is Over, You Narcissist: A Tribute
To Limp Bizkit"
Any interested bands can send their renditions to the Campus Times,
attention: Taylor. I look forward to exploiting you for my financial gain.