VARIOUS ARTISTS: The Songs of Neutral Milk Hotel: A Tribute: One-Sided 12”

Do I like tribute records? No. Why would I want to hear a bunch of covers of one particular band at once? If I wanted to listen to a record’s worth of a band’s songs, I’d put on one of that band’s records. Do I like covers? To some extent, and sometimes I even think they’re better than the originals (see 97A’s cover of 7 Seconds’s “Fuk Your Amerika,” F-Minus’s cover of Middle Class’s “Love Is Just a Tool,” or Watery Love’s take on “New Kind of Kick”). But tributes? Again, no. Do I like Neutral Milk Hotel? Well, over the years, I’ve come around to the Milk Hotel’s Aeroplane record. At one point, I found the record absolutely annoying—and those who touted the record even more annoying. And though I’ve come to like the record, I’ve never bothered to check out anything else by them. As such, I lack familiarity with three of the covers on this tribute. Although I lack knowledge of the three of the originals, like Aeroplane, they ain’t making me feel like finding ‘em. Regarding the other five tracks, they’re covers. None of ‘em really stand up to the originals. Got a folk punk take on “Holland, 1945,” which is Aeroplane’s best offering. Never fancied too much of the folk punk, and the take here foregoes the blown-out bass of the original. The other covers of Aeroplane didn’t leave much of an impression. However, the fact that Off With Their Heads were on here did make an impression. They toned down the already low-key “Communist’s Daughter,” instead of, as I hoped, making it all fucked up à la Meatmen’s take on “How Soon Is Now?” Nonetheless, OWTH’s choice did allow them to repeat the line “semen stains the mountaintops” several times. I mean, that line is how I make sense of them being on here. In the end, this is still a tribute record, a concept I could never get behind. Seems better to bust out a cover live or save that shit for a rarities comp. Here, none of the tracks are horrible renditions, which is about as much as you could hope for with a tribute record. So I guess it’s all right for what it is. But the shiny turd is still a turd. 

 –Vincent (Swamp Cabbage)