On the Cover II

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Ever since MxPx released their first covers album in 1995, fans have been chomping at the bit for another one. On the Cover II finds the guys finally relenting almost 15 years later, and those who have waited it out will like what they find here. The record's 12 songs are mostly all pulled from the '80s, gleaned off a list of the trio's influences and personal favorites -- both the expected (the Clash), and the more random (the jangly pop-punk of "Linda Linda" from Japanese punkers the Blue Hearts). For the most part, MxPx handle the cover album as any other punk band would -- they speed things the hell up. This works great more times than not, as with U2's "I Will Follow," but especially enjoyable are their faithful renditions of no-brainer punk songs, like the Dead Milkmen's most excellent "Punk Rock Girl" and the Descendents' "Suburban Home." And while their version of the Clash's "Should I Stay or Should I Go" sticks out as rather standard issue -- and really you'd be better off just listening to the original -- it's at least nice to hear guitarist Tom Wisniewski handling vocals for a change. Overall, it's the few moments when MxPx step a bit further out of their comfort zone that they really shine and sidestep complete predictability. Poison's "Fallen Angel" comes out surprisingly well given the pop-punk treatment, and the help of friends allows MxPx to successfully tackle some songs that on paper seem like they would only be disasters -- the Rocket Summer's precious Bryce Avary lends colorful vocals to Queen's "Somebody to Love" (hitting the high notes Mike Herrera no doubt wouldn't even attempt) and ex-Tsunami Bomb's Agent M leads the charge on Belinda Carlisle's giddy "Heaven Is a Place on Earth." So while fans will definitely be satisfied with all of the songs on this album, at the end of the day, it's really those unanticipated tracks that will make On the Cover II worth the listen for everyone else.

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