Music Review

Musical tributes are a joke to industry

Campus Times
November 22, 2002


by Taylor Kingsbury
Staff Writer

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 not achieve.

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 released songs.

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 to Offspring"

·"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.