The formula for a decent tribute album isn’t incredibly complex -- pick a good band for paying tribute and get more really good bands to do (ideally) original takes on those songs.
To that end, Up End Atom gets it right. Atom and His Package provides a plentiful catalog of great, quirky tunes with a synth punk style entirely his own. Then Heartless Hind pulled together a variety of great artists, from nerdcore rappers like MC Chris and MC Lars, to quirky punks acts such as Zolof the Rock & Roll Destroyer to the Aussie/Jewish punks Yidcore, to German indie act Locas in Love. It is quite the lineup, providing a versatile take on Atom Goren’s music.
While everyone will have their favorites, Zolof the Rock & Roll Destroyer’s take on “Happy Birthday Ralph” is fairly straightforward, but fits perfectly with the band’s happy-go-lucky-sound-juxtaposed-with-deranged-lyrics reputation. Worm Quartet offers a great rendition of “It’s a Mad Mad Mad Mad Mad Mad Mad Mad Lib 2008,” with new words filling out the Mad Libs-inspired tune, at a bit faster of a pace. Locas in love wins the award for most original cover with a slow, elegant version of “I Am Downright Amazed at What I Can Destroy with Just a Hammer.” And hearing the Emotron tear it up on “Me and My Black Metal Friends” is always entertaining.
Mr. Adam Goren even makes a self-conscious appearance on his own tribute album, performing “Goalie” with the Zambonis. A couple of acts, like MC Lars with his recording of “(Lord It’s Hard to Be Happy, When You Aren’t Using) The Metric System,” don’t do enough to make the songs fresh, but an Atom and His Package song left sounding like an Atom and His Package song isn’t such a terrible thing. Still, it would have been nice to see a little more done with those particular songs, and it is a shame that the tribute is over in 11 tracks and 27 minutes.
Fans will be begging for more, but without an active Atom and His Package in the scene, Up End Atom provides fans the next best thing. Also worth noting is that Heartless Hind’s site reads that $4 from each CD sold will be donated to the American Diabetes Association. Goren was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes, which partially led to his decision to discontinue Atom and His Package.