Seventeen years of making music has enabled MxPx to accomplish many different things in their career. One of them was covering eight mainstream songs on their second project in 1995 called On the Cover EP. Most recently, the punk rock band has manufactured On the Cover II, which originates from the original concept of their first cover project even down to an updated version of the album cover photo.
One difference between the two album covers is that the second edition has better quality. However, quality is more than face value for this record, as many of the tracks that MxPx covers resound with cutting edge beats and top notch punk rock. Some of songs that MxPx decided to cover are more often pathetically ridiculous ("Suburban home" rhymes 'home' with 'clone'?) than questionable, although there are some moments of that also. Although we don't see the worst products of bands like the GoGos or the Clash, there might be some head scratching as to why those bands made it on to the disc.
Seeing that the album is a boat load of covers, there are very few surprises, but MxPx does a fine job making things interesting and fresh. The first time the music makes an innovative turn is "Heaven Is A Place On Earth" which features Agent M's (of Tsunami Bomb) vocals, which adds lots of diversity to an already infectious tune. The other significant moment where the music sticks out is an English version of "Linda Linda," where MxPx offers some unexpected Japanese inserts into a relatively ordinary pop song originally done by The Blue Hearts.
Rarely does MxPx take away anything from the original song (with the possible exception being U2's medium rock song "I Will Follow"). Actually in most cases, MxPx improves a song more than just enhancing the quality of the 80's music. "Punk Rock Girl" is drastically improved from the geeky punk tune by Dead Milk Man, and the catchy upbeat punk "Vacation" flows better than its predecessor. The band truly does a spectacular job representing The Proclaimers with the cover of the old school punk tune "(I'm gonna be) 500 miles," and although "My Brain Is Hanging Upside Down (Bonzo Goes To Bitburg)" isn't quite as good, it's still an infectious song. Unfortunately, with all the stars featured on the finale (Ethan Luck of Relient K and Bryce Avery of Rocket Summer), "Somebody To Love" isn't much of an ear-catcher, even though the piano intro is nice.
Tossing aside more than a few songs which have little or no meaning to their core, there are a few noteworthy lyrics which potential buyers might like to be aware of. It would be interesting to know if the line on "I Will Follow," 'I was blind, I could not see. I was lost, I am found', was a prop for the love song or a tribute to "Amazing Grace." While fans might not get much out of the political statement that "My Brain Is Hanging Upside Down" makes, it's worth paying attention to the cover of "Fallen Angel," which shows the unforeseen consequences of leaving family for fame ('Just like a lost soul/Caught up in the Hollywood scene/All the parties and the limousines/Such a good actress hiding all her pain/Trading her memories for fortune and fame').
Sadly, though, On the Cover II does contain a few grey spots, and while fans should keep in mind that MxPx didn't write the lyrics, they did decide to cover the song. The most offensive song is "(I'm Gonna Be) 500 Miles" which drops and repeats the line 'When I wake up, well. I'm gonna be the man who wakes up next you' without any marital context. "Punk Rock Girl" features the singer answering 'punk rock girl's' theft of an item with 'you look so wild' and although "Heaven is a Place On Earth" is hopeful, the song's premise is misguided.
It's annoying that MxPx couldn't have cut a song or two to make the album friendlier, but since the goal of On the Cover II seemed be just to have another album that's catchy and loud to sing to in your car without caring about the lyrics, it should go over well.- Review date: 3/28/09, written by Nathaniel D. Schexnayder of Jesusfreakhideout.com
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