I definitely at least find the idea behind this album to be pretty interesting. Essentially they've combined the idea of the Cover Album
with the Concept Album
in a way that I don't think has been done too often - the only other specific example I can think of is Tori Amos
' Strange Little Girls
. There are two (sort of) original tracks, but the rest of the album features covers of protest songs (of sorts), specifically ones that were written well before George W. Bush
's presidency but could still be read as being relevant to the political situation in 2004.
The first single from this album was “Imagine”, and I remember it having somewhat of a mixed reception: Apparently you can’t drastically rearrange the most well-known song by a dead musical legend without raising a bit of ire. I personally like The Cover Changes The Meaning
effect here: The overall message is the same, but the music makes it seem much less optimistic about actually achieving the ideals of the lyrics. When John Lennon sang “I hope some day you will join us and the world will live as one”, he sounded like he was confident that it would happen, whereas Maynard James Keenan sings it as a desperate plea.
Unfortunately though, they essentially re-use this basic idea three more times, to diminishing returns: The equally dour take on Nick Lowe’s “(What’s So Funny ‘Bout) Peace Love and Understanding” sounds fine, but definitely feels like a less striking version of the same idea. “What’s Going On” and “People Are People” fare considerably worse, since they basically lose any trace of melody whatsoever. “People Are People” may be the worst moment of the whole album, in fact.
The album gets a bit more interesting when it comes to songs that were meant to be angry or cynical to begin with. The album opens with it’s most obscure cover choice, Crucifix’s “Annihilation”, which converts a furious Hardcore Punk
song into a dirge based around toy piano. Keenan whispering lines like “power is power, the law of the land / those living for death will die by their own hand” makes it one of the eeriest and most effective tracks on the album. Other inspired moments are an unhinged industrial waltz version of Black Flag
’s “Gimme Gimme Gimme” and a menacing take on Fear’s “Let’s Have A War” that incorporates skittering, almost drum-n-bass inspired percussion. Elsewhere, album ends on a pretty strong note with Keenan and Billy Howerdel harmonizing on an acapella version of Joni Mitchell’s “The Fiddle And The Drum”.
About the two original tracks: “Passive” is a song that originated with Tapeworm, a long abandoned Super Group
that would have featured contributions from Keenan as well as Trent Reznor and Phil Anselmo. In fact, Reznor is credited as co-writing the song. I’m not sure how it fits into the protest song concept; Actually, if anything the lyrics seem to have a physical/emotional addiction theme that has a lot in common with their Thirteenth Step material. Still, it’s one of the strongest tracks on the album. “Counting Sheep Like Bodies To The Rhythm Of The War Drums”, meanwhile seems like a case of applying The Cover Changes The Meaning
to one of their own songs: The original version was released as “Pet” on Thirteenth Step and came off as a song about a fiercely over-protective father. However, partially because of context and partially because of a more industrial-influenced arrangement including a marching rhythm, it comes off more like a fascist government claiming to be protecting the people from themselves.
For the most part, I consider this album something of a frustrating failed experiment. Still, it’s occasional successes can be intriguing, the idea is pretty ambitious, and I guess I’d still rather have something like this than a traditional cover album where the songs are barely changed.
: Passive, The Fiddle And The Drum, Imagine
There's actually some confusion as to whether to call this aMOTION
because it's a bonus cd to the DVD of that name, or rEMIXED
because that title appears on the disc itself. I'm going with the latter. Regardless, this album features remixes of Mer De Noms
and Thirteenth Step
tracks. What's sort of interesting is that most of these remixes are by people who are either current or former members of the band: Danny Lohner, who was a full-time member starting with eMOTIVE
but contributed to both of their other albums, is fully or partially responsible for four of these remixes. Meanwhile there's current member James Iha remixing "The Outsider" and "Blue" and former members Paz Lenchantin and Troy Van Leeuwen each doing full-on covers of "The Hollow" (at least I think
the Troy Van Leeuwen one is a cover, because that's definitely not Maynard's original vocal track). The only outside appearances are by Massive Attack
's Robert "3D" Del Naja and Limp Bizkit
's Wes Borland, and even Wes Borland auditioned for A Perfect Circle once.
Mostly, the remixes tend to be in a trip-hop style that emphasizes the more atmospheric elements. The consistency in approach may have something to do with the fact that Danny Lohner contributed so much here. Then again, one of his remixes stands out stylistically: The "Tilling My Grave Mix" of "Weak And Powerless" is also the one with Wes Borland on it, and he adds just a little bit of Nu Metal
flavor to it, although not too
much or anything.
I'd call this a successful remix album in that none of the mixes make the mistake of either being too close to the original or being so barely related they might as well be different songs. The most similar to the original is "The Outsider (Frosted Yogurt Mix)", where it mostly seems like James Iha just added a few additional keyboard and guitar tracks to the original song, but even there the song feels a bit less heavy and a bit more ethereal as a result. The least similar is Robert "3D" Del Naja's "3 Libras (All Main Courses Remix)", which has somewhat mixed results: he builds a cool Massive Attack groove out of the original's bass line, but I'm not much of a fan of the occasional reverbed vocal loops and think it might have fared better as an instrumental. Another pretty different take is Paz Lenchantin's solo rendition of "The Hollow" (listed as the "Constantly Consuming Mix"): She rearranges one of the relatively heavier Mer De Noms
tracks for piano, violin, and her own multi-tracked vocals to a particularly haunting effect.
The Hollow (Constantly Consuming Mix), The Outsider (Apocalypse Mix)