n the early days, of course, they were all cover albums. Bands weren't expected to write their own songs. The Beatles were considered revolutionary because they wrote SOME songs. Then Lennon and McCartney started getting serious about songwriting, as did Dylan, Jagger and Richards, et al. and pretty soon bands were expected to write their own songs. Anyone who didn't was derisively branded a "cover band."
Then, come 1973, Dylan, David Bowie and the Band all released cover albums (the notoriously awful Dylan, Pin-Ups and Moondog Matinee, respectively), only these were something new: now they were "cover albums." Dylan's audio middle finger aside, what made the other two interesting was the idea of an established artist, known for their original compositions, revealing a glimpse of their roots and, in their interpretations of the songs, some clue as to exactly how they absorb and reflect them.
The cover album has since served differing purposes for artists. A despondent John Lennon, in the midst of his separation from Yoko, tried to rediscover what it was that made him love music in the first place on Rock & Roll. Cat Power's Chan Marshall flexed her under appreciated strengths as a performer rather than a songwriter, while Yo La Tengo turned down the amps to discover their nascent vocal harmonies on Fakebook. Even Dylan re-explored his shunned role as a folksinger on World Gone Wrong and Good As I Been to You as he geared up to write his strongest original material in years. And, of course, who could forget Duran Duran, who followed up the most unlikely comeback in rock history with Thank You, a bizarre exercise in self-parody which seemed to beg for ridicule as a desperate ploy to avoid being forgotten once again.
Which brings us to Rush's Feedback, on which the band mounts a campaign to usurp the Duranies' nine-year hold on the Dylan Award for the worst cover album ever.
Comparisons are hard to make, though. Duran Duran was never known for their musical chops as a band. As such, their choice of songs tipped their hand immediately ("Lay Lady Lay," for instance). Any prospective listener was already expecting the worst. Rush, on the other hand, know that whatever respect they command is as well-rehearsed musicians, so there's a certain interest no matter what they choose to play. With this firm disadvantage in mind, how do they go about attempting to dethrone Duran Duran? With the most predictable material they could think of.
The challengers open with "Summertime Blues." A radical reinterpretation of the Eddie Cochran chestnut? Nope, a knockoff of the Blue Cheer version, complete with bass solos over the authority-figure-dialogue bits, making this a COVER OF A COVER! POW! Duran Duran look a bit taken aback by the opening salvo; perhaps they have underestimated their worthy opponent. Need they remind us that their entry included "I Want to Take You Higher"...TWICE!?
From here Rush stroll through six more pitifully obvious classic rock radio staples, including two apiece from the Yardbirds and Buffalo Springfield; the listener quickly begins nodding off, checking his or her watch periodically. Duran Duran counter with a little Led Zeppelin, shouting "Wake up and laugh at us!" The bout looks like a dead heat as Rush fire their closing shot: "Crossroads." A proggy, sci-fi take on the Robert Johnson classic? Nope. A knockoff of the Cream version! Another cover of a cover! LeBon & Co, having seen this move before, easily parry with an electro-dub version of "Watching the Detectives," then cue up a little acoustic Public Enemy for the knockout blow. Title retained. The moral of the story? Boredom lasts only until the end of the record, but absurdity is forever.
Bottom line: Rush has no business releasing this garbage. Save it for the website, guys. Let the fans who care download it for free (q.v.: REM's remix album). To ask that the poor schlubs at Sam Goody waste their minimum wage time stocking the shelves with this is sheer, unadulterated arrogance, even if the packaging is relatively lightweight.
Reviewed by: Bjorn Randolph
Reviewed on: 2004-07-27