Traditionally, I stay away from tribute albums. Albums full of covers of a particular band by other bands. There may be some great tracks on albums such as this, but more often than not I find myself not super enthused by the bulk of the tracks. I appreciate the efforts of the bands covering and that they love the band enough to commit to recording a track in support, it’s just something I have bought, regretted and learned my lesson on.
As that as a backdrop, let me introduce you to Fruit Bats.
I had never heard of this band before, but Otis pointed it out to me because they do a cover of the entire “Siamese Dream” album by Smashing Pumpkins. It was released by Turntable Kitchen in their Sounds Delicious series of full album covers. There is a subscription service, and some very interesting and tempting albums. The “Siamese Dream” album at that time had a sample track of Fruit Bats doing “Today”.
The track is very good. Sort of a lo-fi alt/indie folk version. Acoustic and slow and a bit dream popish to boot. I was pleasantly surprised and I began to wonder how he would treat songs like “Luna” and “Sliverfuck” and “Geek U.S.A.”.
Per the website there were 2 versions. One black vinyl version for everyone, and one orange for subscribers only. I ordered that black version and when it arrived recently I was stoked to find that somehow I had gotten the orange version! Woot.
Here is a look at the orange vinyl.
As much as I wanted to spin it, I had to set it aside and play the Smashing Pumpkins version of “Siamese Dream” to get a quick fix and reminder of all the tracks. I wanted to have a recent listen so I could compare, but I also wanted to clear my head and give it a fair shot without holding it too intently to nuances in the original.
Though I had high hopes, I was equally prepared for being let down. Turns out… it was great!
I liked every song and it really works. I respect him for taking on the whole album and his affection for that album shows in his treatments. I rarely do song by song breakdowns, but here we go…
“Cherub Rock” has a very stripped down sound and his voice is very front and center. I’m almost ashamed to admit this is the first time I have ever picked up on some of the lyrics Billy is typically screaming.
“Disarm” scared me a bit with it’s casio style opening, but he fleshes it out and
“Geek U.S.A.” is very acapella-ish with sparse accompaniment and I couldn’t help try to mentally compare the versions. Again, being confronted with clearly spoken lyrics from a song I didn’t really know them all from was an experience.
“Hummer” is a toe tapper with a campfire sing along kind of feel. Light and airy with some electric guitar softly soloing a bit. It also has a soft drony and trippy section before the end that is reminiscent of the loud Pumpkins track. This is one of the longer tracks at 6:10. Well done Fruit Bats!
“Luna”. I was worried about this one. It’s a favorite of mine. The Fruit Bats version does not disappoint. It sways gently and there is a sweetness to it.
“Mayonaise” starts with the Casio vibe, but again I found myself tapping my foot and digging it. Their is a weird church bell snippet about halfway in, otherwise this track is fantastic.
“Quiet” is the only track that misses the mark a bit, though I still like it. It’s very short, at only 1:22 and there is a strange foreign background voice here and there. It’s a little off putting.
“Rocket” is pretty up tempo and has some nice harmonies and his vocals are taut. There is a small Beatle-esque keyboard treatment in one spot near the end that tripped me out.
“Silverfuck” starts slow and quiet, then kicks in with an aggressive vocal (which is fitting for this song) and then drains to slow and quiet again. Although this is slow there are some nice sound textures going on. The ending returns to the high intensity before ending a bit abruptly.
“Soma” is all piano. It’s a sparse treatment but nice. About halfway through it sounds like the piano changes to harpsichord (?) treatment for a while, then ends on piano again.
“Spaceboy” is back to acoustic guitar and simply sung. I think the vocals on this are melancholy and perfect. I found myself doing a slow nod to this one.
“Sweet Sweet” is short and without much fluff. Not a highlight, but not bad.
“Today” is the closer and you can tell it has been produced well. There is an added bassline and layered vocals. This was the track that they used as a draw and sample track for this album. Funny that they held it to last. It’s the most “mainstream” track.
Final results are a great album of songs that are both familiar and foreign to the ear. It would have been interesting to hear this and then hear the Smashing Pumpkins version. Imagine that. I think this will make an excellent album to sleep to, and I mean that in a wholly positive sense.
A big thanks to Otis for pointing this album out to me. Turned out to be a great score and a fantastic addition the the collection.