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Issue: March 1994

forgot one thing: good music

The Song Retains the Name (Safe House)

Various Artists

Now here's a great idea gone awry.

The plan was to have a slew of little-known alternative artists record versions of classic Led Zeppelin tunes. The problem is, simply, that most of the covers here stink.

The Whyos offer an intriguing, hip-hop deconstruction of "The Wanton Song." And Alluring Strange live up to their name with a truly odd version of "D'Yer Mak'Er." But that's about it.

Here's an irritating note: Four of the 13 bands involved in this project chose to recast Zep in a folk or bluegrass style. The Bad Livers' twangy reading of "Dancing Days" is amusing, but do we really need three more similar efforts? Folkadelic's "Houses of the Holy," especially, has to go.

It gets worse from there. The Ordinaires' instrumental rendition of "Kashmir" (played on violins) and Mojo Nixon's growling, yapping read of "When the Levee Breaks" are simply unlistenable.

Perhaps the most irritating aspect of this album is that so many of the bands take a smartass, satirical approach to the material. To me, knocking Zeppelin because they're no longer edgy or radical is the height of vapid hipsterism. It's like knocking Shakespeare because his plays are full of clichés.

Or maybe it's just that the bands' irreverence would sit better if any of them could prove they're capable of doing anything half as good.

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