Crunk, that particular high-energy party hip-hop built around looped drum machines and simple chants, broke through into the mainstream a few years ago with massive hits by OutKast, Lil Jon, Bone Crusher, and the notably addictive Oscar-winner "It's Hard Out Here for a Pimp" from Hustle and Flow. Fearless Records, looking for another opportunity to expand their Punk Goes... series, came up with the concept of Punk Goes Crunk, a chance for punk rock bands to reinterpret and perform crunk hits. On paper, maybe, it seemed like a good idea. Unfortunately, Fearless was unable to follow through on the idea, producing instead this indifferent and unnecessary CD. First of all, Punk Goes Crunk really does not live up to its title. Is it crunk? Strictly speaking, the song selection is uninformed -- for example, the 2Pac and Arrested Development songs predate the development of the genre, while the candy floss pop hits of Will Smith and Rihanna really don't fit either. Well then, is it punk? Not really. There is not a single note on this record in the tradition of the Sex Pistols, Dead Kennedys, Ramones, or Black Flag: the groups (including Say Anything, Forever the Sickest Kids, New Found Glory, the Maine, Hot Rod Circuit, My American Heart, Scary Kids Scaring Kids, All Time Low, the Devil Wears Prada, the Secret Handshake, and Set Your Goals) seem to share a common historical sensibility -- punk began with the power pop of Green Day, and reached its pinnacle with their unintentional bastard prodigy, emo and screamo.
All these songs are well-produced, but as Joey from D.O.A. likes to say, "you can't polish a turd," and most of this is unpolishable...only Hot Rod Circuit lays down a successful track, wisely putting Snoop Dogg's "Gin and Juice" into a bluesy arrangement that actually works in a different context. But the rest of this record is really unlikable, both in general and specific terms. Singing lyrics meant to be rapped enfeebles the poetry and neutralizes its rhythmic underpinnings, while bastardizing production styles to mimic samples is simply sonic chicanery that doesn't fool the ear. There are so many individual poor decisions here, it is hard to know where to start -- the decision to make "Put Yo Hood Up" by Set Your Goals the leadoff track, with its vocal delivery deliberately mimicking Yoda from Star Wars; the weak inclusion of the theme to Men in Black by Forever the Sickest Kids; the astonishingly limp Rihanna cover "Umbrella" by All Time Low. If Say Anything's intention was to lampoon Ol' Dirty Bastard's "Got My Money," they succeeded marvelously, trashing both the song and the concept of a punk band covering it. Scary Kids Scaring Kids and the Secret Handshake also deserve dishonorable mention for their wretched versions of Skee-Lo and Biggie tracks; it is a relief when the overrated New Found Glory finally ends the disc, serving up a generic version of Arrested Development's uncrunky "Tennessee" without even a hint of creative involvement. Punk Goes Crunk may actually be cherished by a few collectors in the future, as a nostalgia novelty resurrected to give a few disbelieving belly laughs at the cheesy artwork and misguided music (suggested reissue title -- "White Men Can't Crunk"). For now, it is at best a quickly forgotten addition to the collections of fans passionate about the individual groups, and easily ignorable by everyone else.