who’s not forgotten – look loyal bigyawn readers, we need to talk. i know you come to us for completely unbiased reviews, and, as pseudo-journalists, we have the right to give it to you straight. we can’t let our personal prejudices sway us from impartial reporting. that being said, there is something that I need to get off my chest, and i’ve put it off long enough. it’s time to clear my conscience: i despise tribute albums.
and how could i not? it’s a lose-lose situation, really. buy a tribute album because you love the band to which honor is being paid, and you get stuck with 20-odd lame ass versions of songs you love (does reel big fish’s version of “gigantic” ring any bells?). buy one because the so-and-so’s cover “this or that,” and you get the same outcome. either way, you’re fucked, and lord knows i’ve been suckered in by quite of few of both.
despite my preconceptions, you could do a lot worse than who’s not forgotten: fdr’s tribute to the who. forgiving a few weak tracks, this tribute album is downright enjoyable. filled with 21 tracks from a bevy of underground pop all-stars, who’s not forgotten manages to pay respectable praise to the who without ever trying to be more than just a tribute. in fact, many of the bands are happy handing in straight-forward versions of the classics, not flexing their creative muscle to “improve” a classic. the opening track, a rock-solid version of “heaven and hell” by philly’s photon band, provides a pretty good idea what the rest of the album will be like: the who covered by bands that just want to rock as hard as their idols did. while this doesn’t really lend itself to be a very surprising album, it’s still a good listen.
guided by voices, by far the biggest draw on this compilation, turns in a powerful live version of “baba o’riley,” but it’s the lesser known bands that really shine here. the lolas, hailing from alabama, have fun with a lively version of “the kids are alright,” complete with some pretty faithful keith moon drumming and wonderful harmonies. taggart give “pictures of pily” a fuller garage punch than the original had, and steve brown, the singer/songwriter behind the rigbees, offer a near perfect version of “so sad about us,” even throwing in a verse or two of “a quick one while he’s away” for good measure.
this formula isn’t always a winner. many of the tracks fade into the background because they are such faithful covers. “athena” was boring when the who wrote it, and grandfabric’s note-for-note cover doesn’t do anything to change that. and something about the dipsomaniacs take on “bargain” seems lifeless, especially in the lackluster vocals. overall, the album is fairly strong. things begin to go sour, however, when the bands try to give these songs their own feel. the only truly heinous example of this on who’s not forgotten is the contractions butchering of the who’s “my generation,” which winds up sounding like some pretentious punk rock opera gone astray. it quickly sends the album into a sharp downward spiral. by the time “i can’t explain,” turned into a moping song of longing by the glowfriends is over, you’ll wonder why they didn’t cut the album by two tracks.
if you’re a fan of the who, or even the power pop genre, you’ll be pleased with the album. it definitely delivers the goods, and, if you’re looking for a fun record, it’ll come through. however, don’t expect any surprises. (big yawn)