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Tribute albums in honor of artists whose primary talent isn’t songwriting are a bad idea, as the new Iggy Pop tribute demonstrates, but the new Van Halen homage shows that a little imagination can redeem a flawed conception. The Iggy disc is a lesson in what makes a tribute album bad. Slavishness abounds, with the majority of the 20 cuts using the same basic arrangements and tempos as the originals, behind vocals that are, needless to say, tamer than their inspiration. The main points of interest are not necessarily We Will Fall’s high points: Deborah Harry’s vocal turn on the version of the nonessential “Ordinary Bummer” by Blondie incognito Adolph’s Dog, Jayne County’s campy medley “Down on the Street/Little Doll,” and Anthony Kiedis’ ongoing and now near-perfect imitatio Iggy as represented on the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ eerily (and pointlessly) faithful “Search and Destroy.” We Will Fall’s few successes are, predictably, the covers of Iggy’s less famous tunes and the cuts that show at least a little irreverence. Among the former, Sugar Ray turns in a spry “Cold Metal,” and D-Generation’s “I Got Nothing” is convincingly heartfelt, while NY Loose, amazingly, pulls off a jaunty cover of the ridiculously over-resurrected “Lust for Life” by speeding it up a little. But most of the tracks, notably Joey Ramone’s “1969,” Monster Magnet’s “Gimme Danger,” and Pansy Division’s “Loose” wilt in the shadow of Iggy’s versions.
Reverence, thank God, is extremely low on the agenda of Everybody Wants Some!, one of the funniest yet most spiritually faithful tribute discs yet to appear. Guitar histrionics are almost nowhere to be found. The album starts with a church-organ rendition of Eddie Van Halen’s masturbatory solo “Eruption” and concludes with a banjo version of the same tune; in between are 15 tracks in almost as many styles, most of them preserving the structure, lyrics, and humor of the originals while jettisoning everything else. Trona delivers a Squirrel Nut Zippery “Could This Be Magic?,” Jajuya takes “Jamie’s Crying” to the islands, and Talking to Animals storms quietly on the title tuneand those are just the next three songs after the kickoff. The two best cuts are complete transformations that still rock: Gigolo Aunts’ Beatlesque (well, Rutlesque) “Why Can’t This Be Love?” (the only cover of a Van Hagar tune on the disc) and Fuzzy’s “Feel Your Love,” which sounds as if it was arranged (but not mixed) by Phil Spector and manages, by virtue of Hilken Mancini’s plush voice, to alchemize David Lee Roth’s cartoon lechery into genuine sexiness. Like nearly all tributes, these discs are mostly for fans, but whereas We Will Fall is an insult, Everybody Wants Some! is a Romeo delight.