We have two options here.
Either I have grown too old and far removed from youth culture to understand what constitutes new "punk" these days, or 14 of the 15 bands who contributed songs to Fearless Records' Punk Goes 80's, the latest installment of their entertaining "Punk Goes..." series, have really missed the boat here.
God knows that we do not need another argument over what defines "true punk," so I'll do my best to steer clear of that debate. If I can, however, let me just quickly say that just a few years ago the word "punk" was still -- more often than not -- being used to describe relatively intense music featuring characteristics like aggressive guitar strumming, up-tempo drumming, unpolished vocals and raw production. Given that fact, when I dropped $11.99 at one of the registers at the local record store (well, these days it's more like the local corporate mega appliance monster mall) for a disc entitled "PUNK Goes 80's," I was not expecting to hear what we were given here.
In my opinion, when a modern band takes a classic 80's song and reworks it to include their own special flavor all while keeping the song's basic backbone, it can be a really entertaining affair. I loved the older Vagrant Before You Were Punk records for this reason, and I will never grow tired of my Me First And The Gimmie Gimmies records. But I knew we were in trouble here when the first song on this disc, a cover of the Bangles' "Manic Monday," performed by Relient K, started. Long story short, it sounds almost identical to the original. In fact, the same can be said for almost all of the tracks here. Sugarcult's version of "I Melt With You," for example, does nothing. And what was Rufio thinking when they submitted their version of "Don't You Forget About Me" to Fearless? Out of all the bands here, I at least expected them to give us an up-tempo version of one of the biggest hits of the 80's. Instead, they just plod through the song as if they were playing a wedding reception. Nü-emo superstars, Midtown, simply add a techno intro to their standard performance of the Outfield's "Your Love." Lame.
To add insult to injury, most of the bands who did choose to rework their song choices to fit their style actually chose to take a more pretentious, mellow approach. While it would maybe be interesting to hear the Early November do a really slow and totally accoustic version of Huey Lewis' big hit "Power Of Love" on one of their own records, it's probably not what I or anyone else who would happen to buy this record would expect to find in this setting. The same goes for the JamisonParker track. Who would have ever thought that it would be possible for a "punk" record to present a version of "Everybody Wants To Rule The World" that actually sounds whimpier than the Tears For Fears version? Amazing.
Earlier in this review I mentioned that at least one of the 15 bands here got the point of punk cover albums. That band provides the one bright spot on this otherwise forgetable disc. The last track, a cover of the popular song "Video Killed The Radio Star" as performed by Amber Pacific, is the only track on Punk Goes 80's that actually bears some of the "punk" characteristics I mentioned above. It's fast, somewhat raw, maintains the integrity of the original, and provides us with the fun we have come to expect from "punk" covers over the years.
I hate writing negative reviews. I really do. Unfortunately, this disappointing compilation left me with no choice. Punk Goes Pop and Punk Goes Metal were both tons of fun. This one, however, is disposable. Sorry folks.