Powerman 5000 – Copies, Clones & Replicants (2011)

Posted: August 31, 2011 in Music

Trending this week on The Social Nutwork: #coveralbums

While not necessarily on purpose, we are backing up Monday’s review of Puddle of Mudd’s new cover album Re:(Disc)overed with the new release from Powerman 5000, titled Copies, Clones & Replicants – also a full slate of rehashed songs.

While most albums of this nature tend to merely “update” the classics while staying true to the original structure, Spider One has done something different – and far more entertaining.

Instead of sticking to the formula, Spider has flipped these tracks upside down and stolen their shoes. What should be soft is hard, what should be fast becomes furious – and it improves (almost) every track presented here. But doing the unexpected has become almost the norm for PM5K.

Formed twenty years ago, the band has zig-zagged all over the place with different band members, different sounds, and different labels. But regardless of all the ups and downs along the way, Spider has stayed primarily focused on the music. I say “primarily” due to the fact that he has finally followed his older brother’s footsteps (the one and only Rob Zombie). MTV is currently airing the first season of Death Valley, a zombie cop mockumentary created by Spider – which we also recommend.

But I digress…

The album – released August 30th – contains twelve hits from the past re-imagined as only Spider’s twisted mind could have thought of. The reprocessing begins with T. Rex’s “20th Century Boy” which is given the PM5K industrial treatment. Crazy hi-hat cymbals command the track, while slick guitar layer add a nice element – speeding up the original.

The best way to handle Eddy Grant’s “Electric Avenue” was obvious – make it MORE electric. A thick layer of synthesizer was spread all over this classic, and some clean, hard-hit guitar chords slap you around from time to time. It’s no secret that Spider is no Frank Sinatra, but his vocals here actually improve on Grant’s reggae (and sometimes hard to understand) lyrics. Who knew?

For new-wave hits, none had a more aggressive message than Devo’s 1980 hit “Whip It,” and Powerman 5000 take the aggression to a higher level with their rendition. The synths are dialed back a little, replaced by tight, crunchy guitar excellence. I never thought I’d say this – being an avid Spudboy and all – but this version is every bit as good as the original. Hand’s down the best song on the album.

One of the most interesting tracks is “Jump,” the spandex-metal anthem made popular by David Lee Roth’s version of Van Halen and seen a million times on MTV or Friday Night Videos or wherever. Spider changes up the keyboard style of the original, rewrites a large amount of the rhythm guitar parts, and noodles the vocals around just enough to keep it interesting. Not much you can do with one of the most recognizable guitar solos in all of music other than stay true, and PM5K nailed it. It’s new visions like this that have always made me a fan of the cover song, and while it’s going to find its detractors, I’m not one here.

Photo by David Block

I’ll save my dissent for the next track, which was a mistake. Outside of channeling Marilyn Manson’s vocal stylings, Spider really didn’t do anything wrong here, but “Space Odyssey” by David Bowie is one of those songs that should just be left alone. There is nothing that could ever be done – by anyone – to make the original better, regardless of effort. I’ll leave it at that.

Another nice change-up is the update to The Fixx’s hit “One Thing Leads To Another.” The track gets amped up with a peppier key signature and modified tempo. It is so different, in fact, that had I not listened to every word of this track a million times while I was popping zits and hiding masturbatory tissue, I wouldn’t have even recognized it.

I’m not going to classify it as another mis-step, but covering The Cars’ “Candy-O” had me scratching my chin a bit. Out of ALL the hit singles The Cars had in their heyday, this was probably one of the least recognizable. That said, PM5K give it an excellent update of heavy guitars and bleeps and bloops, and the track stands pretty strong versus the original.

Spider stays pretty true to the INXS version of “Devil Inside.” There are, of course, the additional layers of keyboards and bass, but I thought it was best served here to lean on the track’s original strength – which is exactly what you get. If you liked it 30 years ago, you’ll like it here.

“Pop Muzik” by M was easily one of the strangest singles of the new-wave era, and it sounds just as strange today as it did back then. The update is cool musically, but without the female backing vocals, the quirkiness that made the track memorable is really missed.

Another standout on the disc is the eerie, haunting version of The Clash’s punk/crossover “Should I Stay Or Should I Go.” There is nothing punk this time around. Instead we get a slower, spookier structure that sounds like it belongs on the soundtrack of a vampire movie. Spider sets a deep mood with the softer side of his vocals, and the gloomy instrumentation only adds to the effect.

A little off target was the rendition of “We’re Not Gonna Take It” made popular by Twisted Sister. The original track was a fist-pumping, head banging rebel cry, but the remake here falls a little flat. The energy is diluted by the synthesizer replacing most of the guitar parts. It wasn’t awful, but it didn’t make me want to get up and slam things around either…

Wrapping up the album is “Under the Milky Way” first made popular by goth/pop gods The Church. Spider pays proper homage to a band that laid the path for gothic rock, and in turn industrial rock, to walk today. Similar to the treatment given to the INXS track earlier, PM5K keeps it close to the chest. A very strong finish to a respectable album.

The one thing I couldn’t help but notice throughout the entire album was the overall calmness of it all. Granted, these were not his pieces to begin with, but it felt like a quieter, more technical Spider One versus the chaotic noise barrage we have come accustomed to with Powerman 5000. The band is currently preparing a new release for early 2012, so we’ll reserve judgment of the true vibe until then, and enjoy this one for what it is – an eclectic, energized reunion with some of the best songs from our youth – and leave it at that.

7.5/10

Tracklist:
01. 20th Century Boy (T. Rex)
02. Electric Avenue (Eddy Grant)
03. Whip It (Devo)
04. Jump (Van Halen)
05. Space Oddity (David Bowie)
06. One Thing Leads To Another (The Fixx)
07. Candy-O (The Cars)
08. Devil Inside (INXS)
09. Pop Muzik (M)
10. Should I Stay Or Should I Go (The Clash)
11. We’re Not Gonna Take It (Twisted Sister)
12. Under The Milky Way (The Church)

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