Various Artists – Substitution Mass Confusion: A Tribute to the Cars
not lame records
The best tribute CDs should make you want to both dig out the old albums and look up the new bands. This one – Substitution Mass Confusion: A Tribute to the Cars – does half its job–it makes me want to go dancing at an 80s night to Cars records, drink stickysweet narcotic-colored drinks and spin until I’m dizzy, then go home to watch John Hughes movies until dawn.
I don’t really feel the urge to go track down any of these bands, though. Even the best remakes on the record just draw me back to the originals. Not that there aren’t great versions on here. Damone does a sugar-candy version of “Just What I Needed” that crackles like Pop Rocks, and the Daybirds have a ghostly quiet spin on “Good Times Roll” that sounds like the echo of a Mardi Gras parade coming from under Katrina’s floodwaters. The Millions make a throbbing, propulsive, needy “You’re All I’ve Got Tonight” and PurrBox electrifies and girly-fies “Shake It Up” with the spirit of Cyndi Lauper.
The most boldfaced name on this list of bands is that of made-up video darlings The Bravery, but three times through the record I still could barely pick out which song they did. So much for big names. A few acoustic versions render “My Best Friend’s Girl” and “Misfit Kid” fairly toothless and dull, and remind me of what was so much fun about the Cars to begin with. Like so many late 70s and 80s bands, they weren’t afraid to combine pop sensibility with their rock’n’roll, and had just enough tongue in cheek to do it well. They lacked the dripping irony of today’s retro-New Wave bands, and the equally dripping sincerity of the emo kids.
So don’t go buy this CD expecting to be turned on to a bunch of hip new bands. It is hard to tell, after all, what their own material would be like from their cover version of a song that you first heard 15 or 20 years ago. But it’s fun to hear different spins on classics, and a portion of the proceeds from the sale of the CD goes to the American Cancer Society in memory of Car Benjamin Orr. So why not buy it?