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Punk Goes Pop - Vol. 4 [Album]

Punk Goes Pop - Vol. 4 [Album]

Fearless Records

Review   6227 Views
Last Edited by: Jack Stovin December 30th, 2011.

Another year means another ‘Punk Goes Pop’ compilation, brought to you by the good folk of Fearless Records. Since the dawn of the millennium, these pop music covers by rock, alternative and metal artists have been dividing as many fans as they have stimulated them. And now as the twelfth in the series has been rolled out, will it be sink or swim for the thirteen bands looking to impress? This time around we have alternate versions of some of the year’s biggest, award-winning hits, like Adele’s “Rolling In The Deep”, Bruno Mar’s “Just The Way You Are” and Cee Lo Green’s “F*** You”. As I have found to be the case with all of these compilations thus far, there have been some complete and utter failures that should never be heard again, let alone talked about again. However, there has also been the occasional cover that has amazed fans and critics alike. Quite simply, some bands get it right and some get it oh-so wrong. Let’s see who’s made the grade this year.
I for one will be keeping an eye on Tonight Alive and Chunk! No, Captain Chunk! on the strength of their appearances here. I’m sure 2012 will see them blossom into something huge.
Well, opening with Pierce The Veil’s cover of “Just The Way You Are” is a great first impression. The experimental post-hardcore group from California are quite renowned for covering a song or two, whether in the studio, or throwing one in mid-set on stage for kicks. And usually with great results. And indeed with Mr Mars’ chart-topping, soppy number they breathe a new life into it; utilising their colourful rock allure to the best of their abilities. Their theatrical background means that there’s still plenty of pop amongst the punk; the familiar piano melody for one is always present behind the thrashy guitars and high-energy drumming. Vocalist, Vic Fuentes’s high pitched, child-like tone isn’t everyone’s cup o’ tea but he has a power and charisma that’s spell-binding amongst the dramatic, uplifting choruses. It’s definitely one of the strongest tracks here.

WATCH: Pierce The Veil - "Just The Way You Are"

Second on the list and another contender for best of the bunch is the fast-rising fivesome, Tonight Alive. Hailing from Sydney, Australia, the pop-punk group are one of Fearless Records’ latest signings and it’s no wonder they’ve snapped them up as from what I’ve heard here, they’re certainly ones to blow up in 2012. Their version of British folk group, Mumford & Son’s “Little Lion Man” opens like it’s not going to be anything special, with (the very non-Australian sounding) singer Jenna McDougall’s vocals timidly singing over restrained guitar strumming through the first verse. Right before I was about to question its value, it suddenly exploded into a musical attack of super-fast guitar riffery and drumming so urgent that I was quite literally blown away. The brilliantly arranged chorus is pop-punk gold and I was so impressed with the range and delivery in the vocals that I’m sure Hayley Williams will be cowering in her red converse.

WATCH: Tonight Alive - "Little Lion Man"

After such a strong and impressive start I was preparing myself for the worst. Although to be fair, Woe, Is Me and their electronic-cum-metalcore take on Katy Perry’s house party hit “Last Friday Night (T.G.I.F)” is far from the worst. Transitioning between sweet electro-pop and bone-crushing metal works for the most part, but when it switches between the two quicker than you can click your fingers, things do get pretty chaotic. The septet are competent musicians and their combined skills on keyboards, programmed/live drums and clean/unclean vocals is commendable. Plus they do know how to pull-off the kind of dirty, mud-stomping breakdown that could quite literally break down a steel door. The quality starts to take a real nose dive when Jordan Witzigreuter, otherwise known as one-man-band The Ready Set takes on hip-hop star Wiz Khalifa’s “Roll Up”. It’s the kind of cringy, cheese-laden electronic pop that’s best left to "Weird Al" Yankovic in my opinion. I’m not even really sure what he’s doing on this compilation considering he’s about as punk as Barney the Dinosaur.

Funny I should mention Barney, as Allstar Weekend are actually Disney alumni’s and are bizarrely also featured on this compilation. I can’t really say there’s anything I like about the trio’s version of Chris Brown’s “Yeah 3X”. To me it sounds too similar to the original; the same dance-pop blueprint that I find quite hard to take seriously in any case. I might as well continue to discuss the more pop-than-punk tracks here, although I was a little relieved to hear The Downtown Fiction’s “Super Bass”. With Nicki Minaj’s hit, they’ve just about managed to not over-do it in the cheese factor. Ok, it is pretty cheesy but the power-pop trio have put all their energy into the catchy chorus without over-shadowing it with screechy synth, unlike some. Instead it’s actually quite a pleasant and easy-going track that brings back a bit of summer’s sunshine to the world.

WATCH: Sleeping With Sirens - "F**K You"

Floridian’s, Sleeping With Sirens have a good bash at Cee Lo Green’s “F*** You” although much like Pierce The Veil’s Vic Fuentes, vocalist Kellin Quinn has the sort of voice that could irritate. Some, like me, will take to it but others will want to reach for the pitch control button or the ear plugs. The song itself sticks to the same structure as the original and keeps the sweet, catchy melody but sits it on top of crunchy guitars and a double-kick drum rhythm. There is one hardcore-esque breakdown although it’s pretty harmless as far as doing some mosh-related neck damage. An underrated band in my opinion is another from balmy Florida, and that’s quartet, Go Radio. They tackle one of the biggest tracks of the year, Adele’s “Rolling In The Deep” with a cool, laid-back Southern approach. Jason Lancaster’s distinctive and quite unusual voice suits the naturally bluesy track and they give the already emotional chorus a good kick up the backside with their radio-friendly pop-rock. The interpretation is easy on the ear but adds just enough grit to the formula for it to go to another level.

WATCH: Go Radio - "Rolling In The Deep"

Brutally tearing apart Taylor Swift’s love-song “You Belong With Me” is metalcore troop, For All Those Sleeping. It opens like the original with an acoustic-country twang before ripping the flesh from your ears with aggressive guitars and screaming vocals that would give any unsuspecting Swift fan nightmares for a week. However they do change it up and introduce poppier elements throughout. All the while they howl wildly through the verses, when it comes to the chorus, lead vocalist Mike Champa, sticks with the original’s clean, innocent melody. There’s quite a bizarre turn into Euro-pop at one point with keyboards and programmed drums akin to something from Owl City. And so combined with the untamed hardcore moments, it’s quite a bizarre and muddled mix. Much like Woe, Is Me’s cover, it flips the table too many times on you just when you were settling down to enjoy it.

The second non-American act to appear (next to Tonight Alive) is another relatively new signing to Fearless and they’re France’s answer to A Day To Remember. The oddly named Chunk! No, Captain Chunk! also blend equal parts of pop-punk and melodic hardcore together. And the Parisian’s version of Ke$ha’s “We R Who We R” is a good representation of their style. They’ve kept some electronic splashes from the song but overall turned it into a fun, lively rock song with plenty of bounce-up-and-down moments. They switch between their light-hearted pop-punkier selves into their heavy metal alter-ego’s effortlessly, and so it’s a solid and memorable take on the club hit.

WATCH: Chunk! No, Captain Chunk! - "We R Who We R"

One of the biggest choruses (or songs in general) of the last year or so, has been “Love The Way You Lie”. Californian six-piece, A Skylit Drive, saw success earlier this year with their third album fairing well in the U.S. Billboard charts amongst many others. And here they have taken on Eminem’s worldwide hit about domestic violence and given it their melodic/screamo branding. Like many other bands on the label, they have separate clean and unclean vocalists splitting duties. Unsurprisingly they leave the mammoth and moving chorus-line to clean vocalist, Michael "Jag" Jagmin, and the usually rapped verses to screamer/bass guitarist, Brian White. It’s a thorough version that displays the same emotional depth as the original, but their heavy, layered guitars and vocal harmonies make it sound fresh. They’ve also kept the original piano melody underneath while varying the song’s dynamics throughout without it sounding confused.

WATCH: A Skylit Drive - "Love The Way You Lie"

I’m not completely sure how I feel about the sudden rise in the amount of bands combining electronic and metal styles of music. Maybe it’s because I lean more towards rock than I do dance music, but I’m open to learn. Britney Spears’ end of the world number, er “Till The World Ends”, has been given a make-over by one such group called I See Stars. Already being more of a dance track rather than a straight-up pop song, it means that the electronicore band have already got the synth parts and programmed beats covered. In-between the dance music they fill it with heavier double-kick drum fills, both screaming and clean vocals and manipulated guitar riffs. It’s not a bad track, but just lacks the rawness, or realness, of some others. Also with an excess of auto-tune, it becomes a bit too robotic for my liking.

Probably the veterans of the album, Silverstein although not technically last on the track list, are the last to be analysed. The quintet from Canada have been going strong for pretty much as long as these compilations have been around. Plus they’ve already appeared on three other ‘Punk Goes...’ collections in the past, branding them with their melody-driven, post-hardcore. This time around they’ve gone for the intriguing and actually quite brilliant “Runaway” by hip-hop’s equivalent to Marmite, Kanye West. Yes you do either love him or hate him, but either way his nine minute opus (album version) was definitely a key track in 2010. Both simple and intricate at the same time, the track has a certain emotion that I would’ve thought to be hard to replicate. However, Silverstein I believe have done it justice; imitating it but somehow making it a new monster completely.

WATCH: Silverstein - "Runaway"

They open the song with that familiar and haunting single note melody, however using an electric guitar instead of a piano. The energy builds and builds with layers of guitar, drums and vocals. And when they reach the passionate and dark choruses, there’s power and strength with a relentless rhythm (hitting that resonant cymbal that’s also highlighted in the original) and equally unyielding, emotional vocals. The rapped verse from Pusha T is replaced with fellow Canadians, Down With Webster; the rap-rock band do a good job at keeping a little hip-hop flavour within the predominantly rock-drenched cover. It’s an accomplished and confident version that’s a good example of when a band completely immerse themselves into covering a track, it actually becomes their own. And from the comments I’ve read on the internet suggest, a lot of people thought that it was an original song; a sign of a job well done.

And so 2011 has seen an overall decent ‘Punk Goes Pop’ release. The series has always had a mixed bag and so I knew there would be a few awkward and dire attempts, especially since a few weren’t even “punk” or more crucially “rock” to begin with. However I’m pleased that there were still some quite exceptional and powerful tracks that prove a cover can indeed enhance a song or at least make you have a new appreciation for one that you didn’t particularly like before. Plus it’s always nice to discover a new band in general. I for one will be keeping an eye on Tonight Alive and Chunk! No, Captain Chunk! on the strength of their appearances here. I’m sure 2012 will see them blossom into something huge.

If Fearless continue to churn these out year after year, I won’t mind as long as the credibility doesn’t continue to slip. Seeing certain acts on the track list that most definitely shouldn’t be there is unnerving and ultimately wrong. “Electro-Pop Goes Pop” won’t be on my Christmas list next year.


1. Pierce The Veil - 'Just The Way You Are,' Bruno Mars
2. Tonight Alive - 'Little Lion Man,' Mumford & Sons
3. Woe, Is Me - 'Last Friday Night (TGIF),' Katy Perry
4. The Ready Set - 'Roll Up,' Wiz Khalifa
5. Sleeping With Sirens - 'F*** You,' Cee Lo Green
6. Go Radio - 'Rolling In The Deep,' Adele
7. For All Those Sleeping - 'You Belong With Me,' Taylor Swift
8. Chunk! No, Captain Chunk! - 'We R Who We R,' Ke$ha
9. A Skylit Drive - 'Love The Way You Lie,' Eminem, feat. Rihanna
10. Allstar Weekend - 'Yeah 3x,' Chris Brown
11. I See Stars - 'Till The World Ends,' Britney Spears
12. Silverstein - 'Runaway,' Kanye West
13. The Downtown Fiction - 'Super Bass,' Nicki Minaj

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