Album Review: Various Artists – “Germs of Perfection: A tribute to Bad Religion”

Album Review: Various Artists – “Germs of Perfection: A tribute to Bad Religion”

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I have to start this off by saying that I usually enjoy tribute albums and that I am a big fan of Bad Religion. So when I first heard about this release I was interested and as I got more information and started to notice that a lot of the bands that were covering the songs did not normally play punk music and I really started to look forward to listening to it. I’ve always felt that some of the most interesting covers have come from bands that were working outside of their normal genre.  Here are a few that come to mind:

Disposable Heroes of Hiphoprisy (a rap group fronted by Michael Franti of Spearhead) covering “California Uber Alles” on “Virus 100”, the tribute to The Dead Kennedys, Alkaline Trio covering Berlin’s song “Metro” on their “Remains” CD and Dropkick Murphy’s version of AC/DC’s “It’s a Long Way To The Top (if you wanna rock n’ roll) on their singles collection volume two. Each of these versions are done in a way that showcases the original song but also puts a new spin on it and that is the way a cover song should be done. Most of the bands on “Germs of Perfection” try to do that but it just doesn’t work out. I’m not saying that there are not any good songs on here but I do believe that Bad Religion deserve a MUCH better tribute than this. The best thing that I can say here is that at least it’s free.

Here’s a short review of all 12 tracks.

1) Switchfoot- “Sorrow”. This is a slowed down and acoustic version of the song. At first I liked it. Slowing it down made the very personal lyrics sink in a little deeper and I thought this was a very good cover until I remembered that Bad Religion had already done this song acoustically on the deluxe version of “New Maps of Hell”. This is just a cover of that version and although it’s not bad… it’s nothing special.

2) Guttermouth- “Pity”. The lead in to this song sounds like someone flipping radio stations and is annoying then Mark Adkins starts to sing and it gets worse. Now if you are a fan of Guttermouth you may like this song, I am not and to me this is the worst song on the whole thing.

3) Cheap Girls- “Kerosene”. This is decent cover, more rock than punk, but the song is played at a slightly slower pace which makes it sound like the recording is messed up or being played through a stereo that is about to die of exhaustion.

4) The Weakerthans- “Sanity”. Another bad cover. I have liked some songs by The Weakerthans in the past but this is just no good. The song is slow, very slow and the addition of bongos makes it feel more like a cover of the Greatful Dead than Bad Religion. It’s so boring that I had trouble listening to the entire song.

5) William Elliot Whitmore- “Don’t Pray On Me”. This is one of my all time favorite Bad Religion songs so I was hoping for at least an ok cover. What I got was one of my favorite tracks on the album. Mr. Whitmore is a blues singer with a really gruff sounding voice and although this is another acoustic song, this time it works.

6) Ted Leo- “Against the Grain”. Done acoustically again but this time in a more upbeat tempo and with more than one guitar. There is a noise backtrack, complete with odd sound effects that increases in volume as the song nears the end. All in all, it’s pretty cool and this is another of the small number of “good” songs on here.

7) Riverboat Gamblers- “Heaven is Falling”. This is a straight forward punk cover, done in a similar style and speed as the original but the Riverboat Gamblers do manage to make it their own.

8 ) New Politcs- “Generator”. Anyone who knows Bad Religion should have figured that someone would cover this song. New Politics do a surprisingly good job with it. Their version has an 80’s new wave sound and even has a reggae breakdown in the chorus. A very good version from a band that I had never heard before.

9) Cobra Skulls Featuring Fat Mike- “Give You Nothing”- Another punk cover and again the band puts their own mark on the song. The Cobra Skulls version is a little cleaner than the original and fits well with their brand of easily accessible street punk.

10) Frank Turner- “My Poor Friend Me”. Being that I am a big fan of Frank Turner, I was looking forward to this song the most of all. It was quite a let down when I finally got to hear the song. It’s not that his version is bad, it’s just boring. And once again it is an acoustic version of the song.

11) Polar Bear Club- “Better off Dead”. This is almost a note for note cover. It’s alright but it would have been better if I could have heard more Polar Bear Club and a little less Bad Religion in it.

12) Tegan and Sara- “Suffer”. This song caught me completely off guard. I’m not familiar with this band and was prepared for another let down but I got the complete opposite. This is another song that uses acoustic guitars but this time keyboards are thrown into the mix. The song moves at a pace very close to the original but the music has a completely different feel, almost atmospheric. Both women can be heard on the track, one sings the song while the other is more in the backround, adding some well placed yelps and or angelic sounding harmonies. Another stand out track.

The overall effect I get from this release is confusion. I understand that Bad Religion has influenced more than just punk bands throughout their thirty plus year long career but why focus so much of this tribute on that fact? At the most, six of these bands can be considered punk and only four of them did a punk version of the song they covered. The album comes off feeling disjointed and it would seem to me like a better idea would have been to make two tributes, an acoustic version and a punk version (they could have included the incredible version of “Fuck Armageddon… This is Hell” that Dave King (Flogging Molly) sung with the Punk Rock Karaoke band) instead of this half-assed mess. Besides, a tribute to Bad Religion should have more than just twelve songs on it anyway.

Less than half of this thing falls into, what I would consider good, two songs are horrible and the others are nothing special. If it had cost me any money at all I would be feeling pretty ripped off right now.

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