The Rubinoos

Crimes Against Music

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The title of this disc is just screaming out for a witty play on words, an easy chance for the critic to make a joke at the band's expense. Because of the stature of the legendary Rubinoos and a strange compulsion to take the high road, all such impulses will be held in check -- maybe. The Rubinoos are indeed legends of power pop; their re-formation in the late '90s was welcomed by all fans of the genre and they put out a nice little record at that time, too. Why they chose to follow it up with a disc of covers is a bit of a mystery -- first because they are great songwriters and second because their choice of songs to cover is a bit problematic. Some of the songs are so familiar that any cover of them seems futile, such as "Bend Me Shape Me" or "Brandy." Some of the songs are so perfect in their original form that they shouldn't be messed around with, like the Flamin' Groovies' "Shake Some Action" (in which they replace the amazing guitar interplay of the original with some cheesy organ), the Beach Boys' "Heroes and Villains" (which they tackle in a cappella fashion and come off as a slightly hip Whiffenpoofs-style group), and Del Shannon's "Hats off to Larry." Some of the tracks are outright embarrassments; the faux-big band arrangement of Elvis Costello's "Pump It Up is goofy and the cornball vocals on their take of the Yardbirds' "Evil Hearted You" strips the song of all its inherent menace. A few songs are not too bad: "Thorn in My Side," the best song here, is a wonderful recasting of a Eurythmics song as a classic power pop gem and the Sweet's "Little Willy" is a fun romp with some great handclaps. Rock rule number 37: Everything sounds better with handclaps. The group also does a nice job with the Todd Rundgren ballad "There Goes My Inspiration." Unfortunately, the title of that track could apply to this record. Although the group in the liner notes talks about how each of these songs inspires them in some way, the record sounds flat, uninspired, and unnecessary. The Rubinoos should go back to the drawing board and leave the lousy covers to the bar bands. The true crime would be if someone bought this instead of the Rubinoos' Anthology, which was released earlier in 2002.

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