Music Industry Axiom #14: Cover albums suck. It’s true, I swear. As much as you love seeing your favorite band do a cover during a live show, it usually translates to pure, unadulterated suck when included on a release. But the aptly titled Writer’s Block isn’t your run of the mill cover album, it’s a cover album with a twist: It’s also an Evergreen Terrace album.
On their last outing, 2002’s Burned Alive By Time, the Florida melodic hardcore machine muscled out an album that was practically a tutorial for how similarly minded bands should sound. Although not terribly original in their style, the execution was as near perfect as bands of this ilk get. Beautiful melodic choruses, vicious breakdowns, great production and a playful sense of humor (song titles include “Dear Live Journal” and “No Donnie, These Men Are Nihilists”) helped the band get some much-deserved attention. They certainly didn’t break any new ground like their counterparts Poison The Well and Hopesfall, but they did manage to put out one of the most consistent and listenable albums in the entire genre that year.
Also, for those of us who were patient enough to wait for it, there was a surprise bonus track at the end of the album, a brutal cover of Depeche Mode’s classic “Enjoy the Silence.” Not what I would have expected at all, it sounded like the source material had been borrowed from Anthrax instead of Dave Gahan and friends. Of course, you groan, just wonderful. But no, unlike so many metal covers of non-metal source material, it was oddly tasteful. The reinvention of the song sounded so effortless that if you hadn’t known any better, you probably would have believed that they’d written it in the first place. Seriously.
So here we’ve got an entire album full of this type of material. And although the lack of almost any original material (only one new song is included) makes it feel a little bit lifeless, it’s still a fun game to see how the band has managed to mutate the songs they’ve chosen to include. For the most part, they’re pretty good.
Covers of The Smashing Pumpkins’ “Zero,” Operation Ivy’s oft-covered “Knowledge,” and Sponge’s “Plowed” really aren’t that far from the originals, and the Hum cover is just a little disappointing (I confess to being a little biased here). But their renditions of Tears For Fears’ heart wrenching “Mad World” and U2’s classic “Sunday Bloody Sunday” are damn good, providing proof that Evergreen Terrace can insert a bludgeoning hardcore breakdown or two into even the most unlikely of places and make it feel entirely organic. Of course, there’s also a downright bizarre musical mutation of Michael Sembello’s all-but-forgotten 1980s hit “Maniac.” As funny as it sounds, it’s probably the best track on the entire album.
Writer’s Block is an album that will probably get heard by more kids downloading “MaNiAc (Metallica Cover)” off Gnutella than those shelling out cash to buy one of the few copies of the CD shipped to their local record store. And that’s unfortunate. But it’s all for fun, which I guess is the whole point. On the back cover of the album, the band explains: “We know this isn’t our new album. This is just a bunch of covers we suckered Eulogy into putting out … Hope you enjoy them as much as we do.” Apology accepted guys, roll deep with the Square Pants.