You’re taking a big risk if you produce a cover album of The Wall (or of any Pink Floyd album for that matter). The band spent a long time producing the original, and it’s meticulous and flawless–and unique to their sound. But an all-covers album by all different artists on each track? That’s even riskier. The Wall is a concept album. It’s intended to be listened to in one, long session. It unravels before you and reveals a complete message only when the last notes are played.
So, how does “Redux” do? Quite well.
It’s not trying to duplicate the concept experience. Instead, it’s just offering different takes, track-for-track, and many of them are different enough to make it a consistently surprising listen. To me, a “bad” cover is one that hews so close to the original that it just makes you want to hear the original. And sure, there are several tracks on this collection that are guilty of that sin. But then…There’s the lead track. The Melvins, who always make for an interesting listen, mash up Blondie’s “In the Flesh” with the Floyd song of the same name.
“Another Brick in the Wall Part 2,” a.k.a. “We Don’t Need No Education,” gets reworked by heavy psych band Sasquatch, who do a good job of giving it weight and power. The classic David Gilmore solo, the second most famous on the original album and one of the most recognizable rock solos in history, gets a respectful retake. It still sounds like the original, but it’s a little slower and the notes pound harder. Well done.
Then we’re right into “Mother,” covered by ASG, who start it out acoustic, like the original, move into electric, also like the original…It sounds a lot like the original, in fact, and yet…Totally different. I’ve listened to it twice, and honestly I can’t tell you how they did it. It’s the rare example of a cover faithful to the original in just about every way and yet it doesn’t make me think, “If they’re just going to do this, I might as well put on the original.”
“Young Lust.” The Slim Kings make it Americana(!)–and it works. “Oh, baby, set me free,” is, when you think about it, a pure country refrain.
One of my favorite songs on the original album is “One of My Turns,” in which Roger Waters destroys a hotel room with his guitar. The song is pure fit of rage on the original album, and Worshipper handles it well. The song takes a turn halfway though, both in the first version and the cover, and both times it grabs your throat and kicks the crap out of you. It goes right into the regret song, “Don’t Leave Me Now,” which which isn’t as quiet when Spaceslug remake it, but still feels like a hangover. The vocals are spoken not sung, and I could have done without that, but I respect the attempt. And it works musically.
Redux even includes the movie-only cut “When the Tigers Broke Free,” covered by Year of the Cobra. Not my favorite on this collection, which is probably why it was left off the album, but it’s cool they included it.
Greenleaf has to take on the part III of Another Brick in the Wall, and they give it a psychedelic funk twist. Love it.
As we enter album #3 of the original opus, we get a fantastic take on “Hey You” by Summoner, but nothing on the covers of side 5 can compete with Mark Lanegan’s take on the heartbreaking, “Nobody Home.” It’s a simple song about loneliness, and of course Lanegan’s voice is perfect for that.
Now we get to the “biggest” song on the album, “Comfortably Numb.” It’s one of the best classic rock songs of all time. Can the band MARS RED SKY handle it? They start out well–it’s different enough, basically modernized and made a bit heavier. But what about that guitar solo–one of the most famous in the history of rock and roll? Well, they throw a fuckton of crunch and grunge on top of it, and turn into a fuzzed out brain hammer. It’s awesome.
The album is coming to a close. Pallbearer takes on “Run Like Hell” and turns it into fullblown speed metal. It’s a relentless race–arguably better than the orignal!
I was concerned how they’d handle “Waiting for the Worms” and “The Trial,” because these are quintessential “concept” pieces. The former is capably covered, but Church of the Cosmic Skull’s take on The Trial is quite different. They’ve accentuated all the elements of the original that made it feel like a song from a musical. It’s a theater piece. You may never listen to it again, but you’ll want to hear it at least once.
Honestly, it’s hard to find a weak cut here. Even some of the original albums softer cuts stand out. “Goodbye Blue Sky” is a good song, but when it stands against all the other songs on The Wall it feels forgettable. Mos Generator don’t try to change it too much, but their version works. “Empty Spaces,” which is basically just a preview to the explosive “Young Lust,” is still largely filler–but Domkraft gives it a creepy, black metal update. It’s probably not a song you’ll come back to, but if you’re listening to this album straight through, you’ll like it.