Various – Rave On Buddy Holly (Hear Music)
by Scott Creney
If you’re looking for the latest in uninspired necrophilia, be sure to check out the new Buddy Holly tribute album. Rave On Buddy Holly is not, as the title might suggest, an early 90s techno version of Buddy Holly songs. Nor does it feature the Happy Mondays. It’s a bunch of rock’n’roll luminaries covering Buddy Holly songs.
Don’t even ask why Collapse Board is reviewing a Buddy Holly tribute. The album features She & Him, Lou Reed, Patti Smith, Florence And The Machine, The Detroit Cobras, Modest Mouse, Julian Casablancas, Cee-Lo, etc., all bodies of light in the CB universe.
The album’s got more sincerity than a charity benefit. It’s more reverent than a rural American towards Jesus. And it’s more tedious and wince-inducing than both of them combined. Rock’n’roll has been around for 60 years now, and it means a lot of different things to a lot of different people. This album’s vision of rock’n’roll is a bald guy in his 50s wearing a $300 leather jacket. It’s the kind of rock’n’roll you normally only find in Hollywood movies and credit-card commercials.
The original rock’n’rollers were weirdos and freaks. The real Buddy Holly, the one who wrote all these fucking songs, was a drug-taking, bisexual-affair-having, three-waying-with-Little Richard, cool-as-fuck genius. On this album, he is effectively neutered. His passion is turned into thoughtless nostalgia. His exuberance is reduced to a museum piece. Art becomes wax.
Of course, given that aforementioned Little Richard three-way, it’s no surprise that Lou Reed has the best thing on the album. His version of ‘Peggy Sue’ is loud, feedback-laden, and strange. Done in the style of ‘Kill Your Sons’, I wish there was an easy way for you to hear it, but there isn’t.
Paul McCartney has the other compelling moment on the album, but not because it’s good. Paul gives ‘It’s So Easy’ his best Billy Childish, which is to say the worst Billy Childish I’ve ever heard. Going for distorted vocals and a garage band sound, Paul stretches the song to FOUR-AND-A-HALF MINUTES. In part, to make room for vocal ad-libs like “I’m going to GITCHOO BABY! I’m going to COME BY YOUR HOUSE! You better be ready HONEY! CUZ WE’RE GONNA DO IT!” Which is creepy enough coming from someone like Kanye, but it’s even creepier coming from a 70-year-old man. The sad part is Paul probably knows a lot about how easy it is to fall in love, and how much trouble that can cause. Too bad he didn’t bring any of that to the song.
Modest Mouse’s version of ‘That’ll Be The Day’ is okay. But only because Isaac sings the part about “til I die”, as if he’s actually aware that death exists.
Patti Smith, someone I sat through a R&R Hall of Fame induction ceremony in order to see, (over)sings ‘Words Of Love’ like she’s auditioning for a talent show. Note to critics: don’t EVER praise someone’s singing voice. The minute someone starts believing they have a ‘great voice’ is the day their songs start getting cluttered up by annoying vocal mannerisms every five seconds (see Tucker, Corin).
And what about Zooey? She brings her cutesy over-enunciating to ‘Oh Boy’. And while she comes off better than, say, Fiona Apple or Karen Elson, that’s only because Zooey’s ‘please-daddy-buy-me-a-pony-while-I-bat-my-eyelashes’ voice is a little less annoying. So sweet, it makes my teeth fall out. And so painful to listen to, it’s like being buttfucked by a giant stick of wispy cotton-candy.
‘Rave On’ sounds like Tusk-era Lindsey Buckingham. It turns out to be Julian Casablancas. Cee-Lo is completely unrecognizable. He sounds like a bad Elvis impersonator. My Morning Jacket is on here singing ‘True Love Ways’. Don’t think for a second I’m going near that one again. If John Doe, Kid Rock and Nick Lowe weren’t listed on the album, you wouldn’t know they were there — their performances are that anonymous. And The Detroit Cobras just sound like an upbeat Bonnie Raitt.
There’s a belief in the music world that it’s impossible to screw up a good song. People in the music world are wrong. These are some of the greatest songs ever written, and this album still sucks.
I can’t think of a single one of these tribute albums that has ever been great. I remember a Leonard Cohen one a while back with the Pixies on it that didn’t completely suck. Not that I had high expectations going in, but Rave On Buddy Holly is even worse than I expected. Completely fucking atrocious. Everyone involved with this project, with the possible exception of Lou, should be ashamed of themselves.
But of course nobody’s ever ashamed of anything these days.
And dignity is just an obstacle that keeps you from reaching your full commercial potential.