Four decades on from their debut, English punks pay homage to kindred spirts and give their own spin to familiar melodies.
It’s become a fashion even for former nonconformists to resort to cover albums instead of performing original material in order to expand their fanbase, yet you can’t blame this bunch for playing what they really like – or liked for ages. Despite some obvious choices, “Version” may serve as a roadmap of JC Carroll and Chris Payne’s fourty-year-long journey from “At The Chelsea Nightclub” to today, where some of the veterans’ erstwhile colleagues have lost either their vim or their lives so, notwithstanding the booming brilliance of certain pieces, there’s an air of sadness to many a track here. But there’s a lot of smiles to the record as well.
Of course, it’s difficult to ignore the mortality angle of VU’s “Waiting For My Man” or Prince’s “When You Were Mine” which bookend it, wrapping all in rhythm-and-blues, and it’s impossible not to feel the artists’ tears when they whip up “What Do I Get?” and “Ever Fallen In Love” from the BUZZCOCKS repertoire, but they also shift the songs’ rhythm off-beat and couple the latter with Wayne Smith’s “Under Mi Sleng Teng” reminding the listeners of skinheads’ – and, by proxy, punks’ – love for ska. The quintet take such an influence further on their reading of Gregory Isaacs’ “Night Nurse” and, most dub-deliciously and heavy, John Holt’s “Police In Helicopter” – although the softening of Bob Marley’s “Soul Rebel” or the pairing of Dillinger’s “Cokane In My Brain” to Grandmaster Flash’s “White Lines” must reveal a different sort of the ensemble’s sensitivity.
If “Chinese Rocks” and “Sheena Is A Punk Rocker” don’t have the same impact as “On Broadway” – done THE KINKS way, with a particular melodic quote fiercely propelling the classic – the “Under Pressure” riff grafted onto Bowie’s “Boys Keep Swinging” and the hefty take on ABBA’s “Does Your Mother Know” are genuinely inspired. Still, it’s THE LURKERS’ “Shadow” that, high on acoustically tinctured groove, should result in the broadest, albeit anxious, grin. Which is a whole point of paying tribute… so fuck the fashion and get your kicks out of this.