This is the "Chinese Democracy" and "Duke Nukem Forever" of blogs, because I've been taking a fucking AGE to write it. I figured now would be as good a time as any.
First off, I've never given much of a thought to this band because of the Maynard James Keenan connection. Basically put, I cannot stand the band Tool (Keenan's day-job). So, you can imagine the horror when the Blog creator suggested I do this album. An album that is (mostly) covers of anti-war protest songs. Having said that, it might do me some good to listen to something new...
Released in the run-up to the 2004 US Election, it captured the anti-George W. Bush feeling that was strong, not just in America but around the world. It's not hard to see why, especially after leading America into two costly and ultimately futile wars in Afghanistan and Iraq in the name of "freedom" and "war on terror" but ultimately, it was to get their hands on the crude oil within those regions. Christ, my country (Great Britain) followed along like a lost sheep and we're still paying the price for it now! Still, whatever you may think of the trigger-happy Texan is immaterial. We're here for the music so let's get to it!
The first song is called "Annihilation", originally by someone called Crucifix, and is some kind of music-box melody with whispered vocals. Ho-hum.
Second song is a cover the John Lennon standard "Imagine" and while his version was more like a prayer, this is a dark, industrialised nightmare. A funeral march for getting buried in a smelters yard. This is a really good song. "Peace, Love And Understanding" (Nick Lowe) is a bit lighter, but that's not to say it's any worse. It's also quite good. Very tranquil song with a great melody. Following on from that, we've got a cover of Marvin Gaye standard "What's Going On". We appear to be back in industrial territory as well. "Passive" is the first of only two originals on this album, albeit it's a leftover from a Trent Reznor side-project called Tapeworm. News of this project created quite a buzz but ultimately, it was scrapped. Everyone except me was gutted. This song, however, isn't too bad. Obviously sounding like the 'alternative metal' of the time, it flits between soft and hard, heavy and light all at the same time. Manyard's voice sounding melodic. "Gimme Gimme Gimme" (Black Flag) totally passed me by (much like Black Flag themselves and the rest of Henry Rollins career). Sounds all doomy and stuff but surely we're in territory previously occupied by Laibach, doing covers that exploit any hidden meaning a song may have? Anyhow, I digress.
Holy Dogshit, a Depeche Mode cover is next! "People Are People" is the song...and it's not too bad. Sounding like they've taken the music box melody off the first song, rearranged then given it some real alternative flavour. "Freedom Of Choice" (Devo) follows hot on it's heels and finally, this band start to sound interesting. A rousing anthem, it certainly creates a bit of a noise. This is definately more like it! "Let's Have A War" (Fear) is certainly a contrast - the original is a massive concoction of booze and fury - much like Fear themselves - but this has an arrangement behind it. Group backing-vocals whilst the reasons for having a war are narrated with a tone of cynicism, it's what a cover should ideally be, a new interpretation as opposed to a straight-ahead rendition. "Counting Bodies Like Sheep To The Rhythm Of The War Drums" is the second of two originals on here - and it starts off like a collage of sound dominated by marching sounds before morphing into an actual song. It's pretty effective and definately a good experiment. Towards the end, we're commanded to "go back to sleep" in a damning indicment of the placcid nature of our society. Where people are more likely to vote on a reality TV show than on an election. Sad, I know.
We're then back in alternative-crooner territory with "When The Levee Breaks" (Memphis Minnie and Kansas Joe McCoy). This song seems out of sorts with the rest as the tone and sound are more akin to a late night lounge club. It's canny enough, I guess. But there are better on here. The last song on this ensemble is a Joni Mitchell cover of "Fiddle And The Drum". This song is possibly the most suited to this album as it was used as a protest song for a number of years. There are no instruments on this song, instead it's performed as a multi-layered vocal track. It's a nice way to round off the album.
And that, as they say, is it. Whilst I acknowledge that a lot of effort has gone into this recording and there is certainly something to be gained, from trying something new, this didn't resonate with me bar the odd song. Normally, I'd have given this album a verbal kicking but as it stands, it has been well done. Fans of APC, Tool or even any of the other late 90's/early 00's alternative-metal bands may enjoy it a bit more.
6 - Now I see where you're going, but not quite there.
Top Track: Imagine.
This album is available on iTunes, Amazon (Click) and Spotify (Click).