Handing over to payback3000:
Last week I gave some lucky forum members the chance to get their claws on un-mastered promo CDs of this album. The only thing I wanted in return was an honest write up or review. I’m sure there are many out there who would have fairly low expectations of any group’s fan-base putting something like this together. They should be prepared for this album to up the stakes in that arena as the PWEINATION posse have knocked this one clean out of the park…
No Pop! No Style! A Review.
Cards on the table, before I received my copy, I wasn't that enthusiastic about the project, cynically I thought "they're mostly well-meaning amateurs, how good can it possibly be?", the SonicNoiseByte didn't fill me with much enthusiasm, solely because of the heavy compression on it (pleased to announce there's none of that on the CD, the sound quality is excellent, so much so I'm not sure how this "un-mastered" version can be much improved upon) so I volunteered to review it just to get a free copy as I didn't want to spend 5 quid (yes, I'm that tight!), hoping that I'd be able to find something good to say about it.
So, just how wrong can one person possibly be?
Really, surprisingly, gloriously wrong! I was blown away by it! My copy turned up on Saturday and I promised payback3000 I might listen to it two, maybe three times as I had a hectic weekend ahead (I was out all day Sunday) and I didn't see when I was going to get the time. So far I'm on repeat listen number 6! I didn't expect anything like this.
It's not all positive but the negatives are few and far between, initially I baulked a little at some of the vocals until I realised that I was simply reacting to not hearing a Stourbridge accent! It's surprising how much you anticipate that, so hearing something else is a shock. Once you get over that however there are some great performances here and there are some brilliant ones!
This, of course, is a compilation album, so it's difficult to judge it as a whole, what's fascinating is seeing how people have chosen to interpret these tracks that we know so well, some play it pretty straight, others go off in extraordinary directions, what's
really surprising is just how well it works.
The choice of tunes in interesting, in one or two cases the limitations of the original song are sharply highlighted (to good and bad effect), others take on recognised classics; it's difficult, for example, to imagine how one could go wrong with Def Con One and indeed the E-Jits don't go wrong at all, a relatively straight version, the inclusion of the classic "Wooo-Yeah!" sample so heavily used in early dance music is very amusing but it's the replacement of the Twilight Zone break with the Theremin theme from the original "The Day The Earth Stood Still" which is just a touch of genius, it's exactly what you'd expect the Poppies to do (and didn't have to worry about copyright, obviously!) and fits perfectly. My favourite B-movie, I will love them forever for that!
There are any number of highlights, Carts Before Horses' Sweet Sweet Pie is an industrial tinged delight, the opening of The Penny Licks Inside You had me thinking of early Joy Division but the vocals are just gorgeous, this might be my favourite track on the album (might be!), I've bought their EP on the strength of it anyway.
Another vocal highlight is that on Jason & Paul vs The Vocal Minority, a version of Wise Up! Sucker featuring another fantastic female vocal (The vocalist is Floz who also features on ‘Sweet Sweet Pie’ – Editor) that just works so well with this track! If I had to think of which songs on TITD that would suit a female vocal this
is probably the last one I'd have picked. But what do I know, this is magic, helped in no small part by Jason and Paul's excellent music (Chris from Carts Before Horses plays bass, guitar and mixed the final track – Editor). Again this is one that doesn't stray too far from the original, it features really great drum samples in the true PWEI
Spirit and feels less like a cover and more like the Poppies updating their own track, which is a massive compliment!
King Brown's Fuses... is very similar in feel, not straying too far from the original (And why would you? It's a classic!) most of the original samples have been replaced, to great effect and this is another strong vocal. This is one of the ones where the accent throws you at first, happily this one really works, I'm guessing it's an Australian accent (might be wrong), whatever, it fits the track really well.
There are, however, 4 tracks that earn special mention for achieving the seemingly impossible: they're Better Than The Original! Stand up Overflowparking (Back 2 Business), Let's Get Lo-Fi Motherf*cker (Urban Futuristic), Divided Front (Dust Me Down) and Artificial Human (Menofeartherepear).
The first two are only short, listening to Overflowparking's Back 2 Business "side two" intro, had me thinking "Crabbi, why didn't you just do it like this in the first place?", the guitars and vocals are pretty much the same as the original, it's the addition of dozens of samples from previous PWEI intro tracks that lifts it into the realms of greatness, if I owned NNDBAS I'd be very tempted to swap this version in for the original!
I mentioned earlier that some tracks highlight the shortcomings of the originals. Let's Get Lo-fi manages to take one of the worst Poppies tracks ever and in 57 throwaway seconds creates a ditty with a million times more charm than the original!
A BTTO award also goes to Divided Front's "Dust Me Down". Now I have to admit, I'd never heard this tune before (I'd never listened to the W&W demo, sorry! I have now!) but that does leave me free to judge it entirely on its own merits. Coming across a little like The Cure at times this is another great vocal, somewhat wistful, melancholy, really touching. Musically it's not a million miles away from the original, the vocal sets it apart though (sorry Clint!), the best male vocal on the album certainly.
This brings us to that relentless show-off, Artificial Human. As if having two tracks on the album wasn't enough, one of them is an absolute belter! His version of 92F is good, although the vocal, well, let's just say I applaud your ambition but that's a
Toughy, isn't it? Menofearthereaper however is just brilliant, I kept thinking perhaps this was a lost Happy Mondays or Black Grape track, every time I listen to it (which is a lot!) I keep seeing Bez in the background shaking his maracas, layers of sounds added as the track progresses, this grooves in a way I don't remember the original doing (it has been quite a while mind you...), I've been humming it ever since.
BTW, The Penny Licks don't quite get a BTTO, simply because I love the original track so much. I'm happy to call that one a draw though, can't say fairer than that!
I haven't mentioned every one here but that shouldn't be taken as a bad sign, truth is there isn't a bad track on here, there's a couple of vocals that don't quite work if I'm being honest but musically every track is far ahead of what I expected. I can only echo Crabbi's comment, you clever, clever bastards!
This album has done something I never expected it to before I received it in the post. It's made it onto my phone (all of it!) and there aren't many artists that can make that claim! Fantastic! I might even stump up the fiver for the release version...
No Pop! No Style! A Brief Review!
Generally speaking I'm normally not a massive fan of cover versions to be honest, although I've always liked ones were the artist "makes the song their own" but I've followed the progress of this project with great interest ever since it was first mentioned all that time ago and I have to say upon hearing the finished album it really was worth the wait. This really is a fantastic collection of covers, and that includes the "straight" covers too by the way. Everyone who's got involved with this has done a stunning job and the finished item is a great listen.
No Pop No Style!
The Pweination Covers Project. A Track By Track Review.
After the Cherry Red re-issues the other year I realised that for this reviewer, different versions of old favourites are definitely the way forward. This covers album has been looked forward to and talked about for a long time and it more than lives up to expectations. Tracks from all eras are included and covers provided in a wide variety of musical styles. Play it loud.....
The anticipation rises as the familiar Moral Majority speech fills the air. It almost seems slowed down (The speech was sourced from a live 1990 bootleg…maybe the walkman batteries were running out! – Editor), which adds to the anticipation...... Then we're straight into a bouncing Def Con Wan, a great start, loving the spooky Theremin & dirty laughter. A fantastically grimy, distorted couplet of 1000 x No! & Very Metal Noise Pollution follows, with a nicely reworked 92F close behind. Sweet Sweet Pie gets well and truly kicked up the arse by Carts Before Horses, the result is just over 2 minutes of simply brilliant electro/pop/punk, featuring a far too sexy robot. I think I am.Falling. In love. Time for a breather and along comes a perfectly dreamy, organtastic Inside You; followed by an atmospheric and angsty Dust Me Down.
Nicely back to the buttons with a dubsteppy sounding Intergalactic Dub Mission chock full of samples and dial twisting. Next up is an epic contribution by Artificial Human, a dark, rumbling Menofearthereaper with contrasting vocals and a bit of brass chucked in for good measure, it's probably the best track of his that I've heard.Then The Fuses Have Been Lit, which verges on a dark UK Hip Hop style at times, a busy mix of samples with a solid nod to the original. And talking of samples, Overflowparking, loving this chopped up sampletastic version of Back 2 Business which, sadly, seems to be over all too quickly.
Kicking further into the techno sound with the next couple of tracks. Seek & Destroy is dark & heavy at times with a wicked old skool robotic vocal. Babylon is an almost ambient journey with a seriously great rolling bass opening. Minimalist bedroom studio vibes on Bulletproof's vocals, with the sampler used to great effect. Pretty Pretty gets a quality reworking which leads into an acoustic break provided by an unplugged version of Urban Futuristic.
A cracking pweination supergroup version of Wise Up! gets you back on your feet & jumping around. You're still up there for a lively version of Auslander which has amended the Ministry riff very well indeed and the compilation finishes with a speedy & melodic pwei-zation.
Genuinely love it. Can't see the eject button being used for a while!
PWEIII- The fans are taking over......
No Pop No Style! A Review From The Land Down Under!
By Urban Futuristic.
Without wanting to show favouritism, I can’t help but think that the pinnacle of this album is reached very early.
The Incredible PWEINATION vs. The Moral Majority is 100% correct… the ‘Nation take on the songs of their heroes with such passion, aptitude & diversity, one can’t help but feel the love pouring from every song.
The intro track flows seamlessly into what could easily be the strongest track on the album, E-Jitz brilliantly crafted take on (my personal favourite PWEI track) “Def Con Wan (Sic)”.
From here the album twists & turns through styles & genres that most people may not even associate with the songs of PWEI, but all, in their own special way, do justice to the evil grebo genius that was (& still is) Pop Will Eat Itself.
Carts Before Horses surprise & delight with a industrial / Nine Inch Nails “inspired” version of “Sweet Sweet Pie”, The Penny Licks turn “Inside You” into something sounding reminiscent of mid-90’s Dubstar.
Wild & Wandering’s “Dust Me Down” gets the Bowie-esque treatment from Divided Front, while Project 13’s approach to “Intergalactic Dub Mission” brilliantly brings a once relatively ‘minimal’ track kicking & screaming into the modern age!
One of the real surprises for me was the King Brown version of “The Fuses Have Been Lit” (any relation to Australia’s Blue King Brown?) – what starts out sounding (musically) like a U2 influenced remix of a pop song ends out in a perfectly balanced hip-hop-electro-pop-smack-in-the-face! (surely that’s an Aussie accent I hear?!)
Overflowparking & Project 13 reminding us all that the past & present incarnations of PWEI can live harmoniously with the formers’ O.G. PWEI sample heavy take on “Back 2 Business” giving the new material an almost ‘retro’ feel.
Which pretty much sums up the entire concept of this album right there…
Like a Cantona-esque flying kick to the face the PWEI Nation Private Press tribute album reminds us all that there is talent aplenty on them there boards – all inspired, wired & fired to erode the future (whilst keeping a steady eye on the past)!
Can I take this opportunity to thank everyone who has contributed tracks to this album? Thanks for the time, effort and talent, Thanks also to everyone who has helped me, and continues to help me put this together. Our people are currently hard a work mastering the project and tinkering with the final artwork.
No Pop No Style! The PWEINATION Covers Project will be released as a full colour gate-fold sleeve housed CD-r this summer. It will be limited to 100 copies and available at cost + P&P only through the PWEINATION forum. Look out for further updates soon.