Boyz II Men & Japancakes- above and under the covers
What's the secret to a good covers record? One thing is to try to make people forget about the originals or at the very least make them not wish that they could hear them instead right now.
Unless it's Yo La Tengo, most bands will also chose material that's already pretty well-known, partially so that they can connect to a built-in audience who's gonna already appreciate a collection of tune they're already familiar with.That's part of the strategy of Boyz II Men's new Motown tribute. These young heartthrobs made some of the best selling music of the 90's (they're the all-time top selling R&B group), now they're yesterday's news. That's a shame 'cause they still have their voices and as anyone who remembers their mega-hit "End of the Road" or "It's So Hard To Say Goodbye To Yesterday" (prom material for sure) can tell you, they had some really good tunes too.
Motown: A Journey Through Hitsville USA of course can't replace the originals but then again, what could? Still, these mannish boys retain their wonderful harmonies as they apply them to the Temptations, the Four Tops, Smokie, Stevie and their own reprise of "End of the Road," lest we forget. Except for the Commodores' "Easy," it's a great selection of songs, beautifully sung and as such, serves as a nice alternative mixtape featuring a bunch of familiar oldies. And hey, B2M were Motown artists themselves so why not include themselves in the tradition?
Though they've recently re-assembled and prepare to unleash their tuneful noise on the world again, My Bloody Valentine have never really left us though they seemed to have literally disappeared in the mid 90's. That's because their shoegaze music has been with us in one form or another through countless bands that pay homage to them. As such, Loveless, which has been their final release for while, is rightfully seen as "classic," "a masterpiece" and such as it artfully blends screaming feedback with indelible melodies in a way that's rarely been equaled, even by MBV itself.
You can't blame bands for trying to simulate that wonderful sound and now Athens, GA's Japancakes, a post-rock combo who owes more to Caleixco than MBV, has gone even farther by recreating the whole album, keeping the title intact too. Their version replaces the wispy vocals and melodies with keyboards, guitars & strings, reminding us how breath-taking and catchy these songs still are. The thing is... the original version(s) also included waves of noise on top, burying the light airy tunes underneath- this improbably mix is what made the record so revolutionary. Japancakes for better or worse decide not to duplicate the noise quotient though, leaving the result as being kind of half-formed. Admittedly, even MBV couldn't always get the mixture right- their last live shows in the 90's were ridiculous walls of noise that short-changed their well-crafted songs. Maybe it was wise for Japancakes to do the opposite then and NOT to replicate this side of Loveless as it would have made their record just a carbon copy of the original where here we can appreciate the selections as actual songs. And since the vocals were buried on the original versions, floating through the music as if they part of background, maybe it's appropriate also that the JC version is instrumental as well.