A Tribute to Music, the band's first long-player since It's Low Beat Time, is the weakest in its history, and one that should have been left in the can (it was only released in Spain). No longer a full-time unit since leader Scott McCaughey joined R.E.M. as an auxiliary member in 1994 (he also started a new project, the Minus 5, the same year), it's obvious that the Young Fresh Fellows are no longer a top priority for him. There's a tossed-off feeling to the record, and the guys sound fairly uninterested in riff-heavy songs like "Barky's Spiritual Store" and "The Mighty Hammer of Happiness," that, like most of the other tracks, are missing the group's unique mix of humor, energy, spirit, and melody. Only the pleasing unearthing of Tracey Ullman's pop nugget "They Don't Know" and McCaughey's own gem, "Little Bird" (remade, along with "Barky's Spiritual Store," to much better effect on Because We Hate You), leave an impression, making for a terrific 45 and one uneven album. Even Kurt Bloch, who could previously be counted on for at least one fine tune, doesn't offer up much, contributing to the pointless "Louie, Louie" rewrite, "Louie Whaow," which is neither clever nor stupid. Even the title of the disc is a letdown, implying a platter that spans musical genres; this just isn't the case, unless you consider '60s garage rock jamming and the use of a cornet on one song great stylistic diversions.
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