Various Artists

The New Sell Out

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In the sometimes murky firmament of tribute albums, The New Sell Out has become something of a legend for two particular reasons: it boasted a stellar lineup of top-shelf bands from the pop underground, and no one actually heard it. The New Sell Out was the pet project of the independent label Futureman Records, who recruited a number of celebrated indie pop acts to cover the songs from the Who's epochal pop concept piece The Who Sell Out. The collection was slated for release in early 2001, but the label's finances sadly took a nosedive and the album was never released; a few of the tunes popped up as bonus tracks on albums by the artists involved, and others were posted on YouTube, but it seemed to be lost forever until 2012, when Futureman was relaunched as a digital-only label and The New Sell Out was made available as a download. The passage of over a decade didn't do the material any harm, which still sounds fresh and lively (even if several of the bands on board were just a memory by the time it arrived in cyberspace), and while The New Sell Out clearly pays homage to the Who, the finished product is as much a salute to the album's original concept. The New Sell Out not only features interpretations of the songs that appeared on the original album, but also the fake commercials that popped up between tunes, and the folks at Futureman were even more keen on sticking with the theme of a day at a pirate radio station than the Who were in their original LP, bookending the set with a sweep of the radio dial and featuring an appearance by legendary DJ Rodney Bingenheimer. It certainly doesn't hurt that Pete Townshend and John Entwistle wrote some great tunes for the album and the acts on The New Sell Out approach them with an enthusiasm that's positively gleeful, especially the Shazam on "I Can See for Miles," Willie Wisley on "Sunrise," the Phenomenal Cats on "Mary Ann with the Shaky Hands," and Myracle Brah, whose psychedelic tear through "Rael" is the most adventurous reinterpretation here. Along with the original track listing of The Who Sell Out, this collection includes covers of several Who rarities from the same period (Swag's "Early Morning Cold Taxi" and the Vandalias' "Glow Girl" are highlights) and more commercials, many of which were created just for this album; while one would do well to avoid contact with Jock-A-Lot, Yellow Pilsner sounds pretty tasty. The New Sell Out is that rarity, a tribute album that's clever and full of original thinking, and anyone who likes the mid-'60s Who or great rockin' pop in general should be grateful this collection had finally seen the light of day.