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Dead Formats Vol. 2: Compilation Album Review


Tracklist:

1. Less Than Jake – Come Dancing [The Kinks]

2. Knuckle Puck – Losing a Whole Year [Third Eye Blind]

3. Lavalove – Lithium [Nirvana]

4. The Chisel – Saturday Night’s Alright (For Fighting) [Elton John]

5. Koyo – Do You Still Hate Me? [Jawbreaker]

6. Prince Daddy and The Hyena – You Get What You Give [New Radicals]

7. The Early November – Bizarre Love Triangle [New Order]

8. The Seafloor Cinema – Cute Without The E [Taking Back Sunday]

9. Belmont – Lying From You [Linkin Park]

10. Mugshot – Get This [Slipknot]

11. Action/Adventure – Hanging By A Moment [Lifehouse]

12. Youth Fountain – Look What Happened [Less Than Jake]

13. Mint Green – Drive [Incubus]

14. Sad Park – Sink To The Bottom [Fountains Of Wayne]

15. The Bouncing Souls – In The Dark [Toots and the Maytals]


Last year, Pure Noise Records and Pabst Blue Ribbon teamed up to release Dead Formats Vol. 1, a collection of covers from some of the Pure Noise roster, and they have come back again with Dead Formats Vol. 2 (released September 8th) with more covers from other bands on the roster.

Ska Punk icons Less Than Jake kick things off for us with their cover of ‘Come Dancing’ by The Kinks. As someone who is a fan of both acts, having grown up with The Kinks and Less Than Jake being the co-headliner of the first gig I ever moshed at, this cover came as quite a surprise as I had forgotten the song existed, however I have to say it is brilliant. It is by nature a Ska song, but Less Than Jake have blended their own brand of Ska Punk into it to provide us with a feel-good anthem, to the extent that if you played it to me without any context I would’ve thought it was a LTJ original. I can just picture the band jumping about the stage having a blast playing it. I once heard someone say that Ska Punk “Is the music that plays in a hyperactive 12-year-olds head when they get an extra mozzarella stick”, and this is a brilliant descriptor for this song. 5/5

Next up is Knuckle Puck with their take on Third Eye Blind’s ‘Losing a Whole Year’. On the surface, the Chicago 5-piece haven’t necessarily done much to the track, very much staying true to the original, however this is a brilliant cover, sounding more polished and updated for 2023, especially in the harmonies of the title and subtle harsh vocals, whilst the instrumentation is especially fantastic, with a standout performance from John Siorek on drums, letting loose on the fills in the dying moments of the track. 5/5

Following on is indie-pop outfit Lavalove, taking on Nirvana’s ‘Lithium’. Prior to listening to this compilation, I wasn’t aware of Lavalove, so I was unsure of what to expect from this cover of what is one of my favourite Nirvana tracks. The instrumentation stay mostly true to the original, but the vocals take on an ethereal quality throughout most of the track that for me, personally, don’t quite fit with the track. The original’s repetition of the word “Yeah” hits with a gut punch, whereas in this version the fall a bit flat. 2.5/5

London punks The Chisel provide us with a cover of Elton John’s iconic ‘Saturday Night’s Alright (For Fighting)’. I was very excited for this cover once I saw it on the tracklisting, however that excitement unfortunately didn’t last long. Like the Lavalove track preceding, the instrumentals stay true to form, but the vocals are sung in a typical punk fashion which creates a jarring clash. I feel that if the instrumentals were punkier then it would fit, but to me it feels more like listening to Elton John if he screamed his throat hoarse, and it is a struggle to listen to. 1/5

Next up is melodic-hardcore new kids Koyo taking on Jawbreaker’s 1994 track ‘Do You Still Hate Me?’. Whereas the original is fairly raw and sounds like it was recorded in a basement (which is by no means a bad thing), Koyo have transformed it into a beautifully produced track that fits perfectly in 2023. The essence of the track is still exactly where it needs to be, and the guitar tones of TJ Rotolico and Harold Griffin are sublime, particularly in the solo at the end of the song. 4.5/5

Albany, New York punk group Prince Daddy and The Hyena throw their hat in the ring with New Radicals ‘You Only Get What You Give’. This cover once again stays very true to form, with little moments of Prince Daddy’s own style peaking through that I really love, especially in the glimpses of dual guitar work from Korneilious "Kory" Jophus Gregory and Cameron "Cambo" Hanford. I do have a personal vendetta against the original, however I do love this version. 4.5/5

New Jersey rockers The Early November follow with a rendition of New Order’s ‘Bizarre Love Triangle’. I have to admit before listening to the compilation, I had never heard of The Early November and never listened to the original track, however I am aware of New Order’s other work. This is a good cover, making it more emo, veering mostly away from the electronic style of the original, with the exception of electronic sounding drums which gives a nice little nod to New Order. 3.5/5

California genre benders The Seafloor Cinema come in next with ‘Cute Without The E’, originally by Taking Back Sunday, an absolute classic in the emo world, so my expectations were high. These expectations were very much met, with the track staying close to the original, with some little additions of guitar flair and piano into the break of the song which elevates it without trying too much and falling flat. 4.5/5

Our second Chicago band of the compilation appears in the form of Belmont covering ‘Lying From You’ by Linkin Park. It seems that every compilation in the same vein as Dead Formats contains a Linkin Park cover, however it is refreshing to see Belmont take on more of a deep cut. Taz Johnson’s vocals fit extremely well in place of Chester Bennington’s iconic screams whilst leading the rest of the band in an extremely solid rendition of a band that, in my eyes, is extremely difficult to cover. 4/5

California metalcore trio tackle Slipknot’s ‘Get This’. Much like Belmont with Linkin Park, Slipknot is another band that is covered a lot, and again like Belmont, Mugshot have succeeded with a deep cut. Somehow, they have brought an even more unhinged energy to an already frenetic song with more modern metalcore stylings, almost verging into the realms of hardcore, and I absolutely love it. 5/5

Things calm down a bit in comparison with Action/Adventure’s cover of Lifehouse’s ‘Hanging By A Moment’. Whereas the original is a more slow and contemplative effort, Action/Adventure pick up the tempo slightly and add more instruments to transform the track into an almost stereotypical pop punk effort, the highlight of which comes in the bass riff in the break before the final chorus which serves as an excellent addition to the track. 4/5

Next up comes a cover of Less Than Jake’s ‘Look What Happened’ from Youth Fountain. The original is an extremely underrated piece of LTJ’s discography in my eyes and I do very much enjoy this cover. The stripped back guitar riff of the opening is now played on bass, which I almost prefer to the original, and is repeated later on. The use of horns is dialled back for the majority of the track, with them shining through in the song’s final chorus, providing more of an accent than the original, which was a nice touch to avoid going full outright Ska Punk. 4.5/5

Mint Green provide us with a dark and broody version of Incubus’ ‘Drive’. The original is phenomenal in my eyes, so Mint Green had a massive task in covering this, however the original spin they have put on this track is extremely intriguing. They have approached it from a more electronic angle, subbing out the acoustic guitar of the original in a very interesting move that I actually think was better than if they kept the style of the original. 4/5

Sad Park follow this up with ‘Sink To The Bottom’, originally performed by Fountains Of Wayne. This version feels to me like grunge infused pop-punk, especially within the crunchy guitar tone in the middle of the track. It has a great quiet/loud format that stays true to the original, once again bringing a song from the 90s into a more modern feel whilst staying true to the roots, however I find myself wishing that they had changed up the irritating synth plinking from the original that has, annoyingly, wormed its way into my head. 3.5/5

Finally, we come to The Bouncing Souls with their version of Toots and The Maytals’ ‘In The Dark’. In all honesty I’m not a fan of this rendition. Instead of retaining a Ska style, or even blending it with their own punk styling, The Bouncing Souls have transformed the song into an acoustic singalong which I really don’t feel fits the style of the original. It feels sluggish and isn’t a great way to close out the compilation. 2/5

I love compilations like this, as they always introduce me to bands that I haven’t been made aware of yet whilst also giving me new music from bands that I love, and Dead Formats Vol. 2 is no exception. It feels like I’m walking around a festival peeking into the different stages and tents, catching glimpses of different styles, and I love it.

Pure Noise: www.purenoise.net


Pabst Blue Ribbon: www.pabstblueribbon.com


Review - Gordon Rae

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