Various Artists – Punk Sexy: A Las Vegas Punk Rock Tribute to Prince
There will be no other tributes like this. Squidhat Records’ collection, Punk Sexy, brings together the cream of the crop from their stable of punk artists and mainstays of the vibrant Vegas punk scene for this breathlessly inventive nod to the recently deceased songwriting and performing genius. Naturally, given the differences in genre, these covers are reinventions by necessity, but no one approaches their chosen track with the simple goal of transposing his funk and R&B stylings into the punk arena. Instead, these songs rebuild each of the tracks with a distinctly different vision that the Purple One himself might have approved of. They touch on a variety of approaches and echo the legendary artist without once ever finding themselves too slavishly modeling themselves against his work.
Japanese punk and roll unit The Heiz scores big early by twisting the relentless funk poses of Prince’s “Delirious” into a classic rock and roll track replete with guitar rave ups and a zesty, unbridled vocal. New Cold War, another denizen of the Vegas scene, turns in a delightfully apocalyptic take on Prince’s airy fatalistic love song “I Would Die 4 U”. The speaker’s unhappy lyrical promise that they would sacrifice their life sounds instead, in New Cold War’s hands, like a new Götterdämmerung captured on a recording. There are no survivors at the end of the song. The all-female unit The Negative Nancys turn “Sister” into a stylish rave up that gains a lot from their harmony vocals and pinpoint ability to stop and start without losing any momentum. Frank and Deans covers a Prince penned track popularized by related outfit Morris Day and the Time, “Jungle Luv”, and their hilarious mashup of the intro to Guns n Roses “Welcome to the Jungle” with the funky swing of the song is probably the album’s entertainment peak. The cover, musically, is wicked sharp and hews closer to the original more than earlier songs while still branding it with their own signature style. There’s a tangible inspiration, as well, sparking from the run through that’s difficult to deny.
Mercy Music, however, changes that quick. Their cover of the title song to Prince’s smash 1984 hit Purple Rain has every bit of the emotional weight of the original without the ornate production trappings of the era. It makes no attempt to recreate the song in its entirety, but the respect is obvious. The Quitters underscore the lasciviousness fun of Prince’s “Jack U Off” with their bloozy stomp and loose, inspired performance. The album’s final song is Dr. Phobic’s cover of the atmospheric masterpiece, “When Doves Cry”, from the aforementioned Purple Rain album. The band, likely realizing the futility of approximating Prince’s seminal vocal from the original, opts instead to recast the track as a brooding guitar instrumental with a bevy of accompanying pyrotechnics. This release defines the very meaning of a term like “tribute”. It isn’t some ham-fisted attempt to cash in on tragedy but, instead, a lasting artistic statement that doesn’t conform to formula.
9 out of 10 stars