It’s likely no coincidence that in the aftermath of the release of The Cure’s latest album 4:13 Dream (and right on schedule at four years since the last one), two tribute albums have emerged. The yet-to-be-released Just Like Heaven promises a slightly more concise, pop-oriented affair, but Manimal Vinyl was the first to the punch with their immense, double-disc set Perfect As Cats. The lineup’s good—Jesu, The Muslims, Kaki King, Bat For Lashes—but even before the music starts playing, I can’t help but wonder if two discs of Cure covers, let alone an unrelated third on the way (not to mention at least three previously released tributes), is overkill.
Regardless of the inevitable complications and reservations that come with covers compilations, they also tend to ignite one’s curiosity. Even on some of the most unnecessary tribute sets, there will inevitably be a handful of standout versions, and Perfect As Cats, by sheer odds of offering more than 30 artists’ takes, beats the average. That said, many of these tracks are quite good, and go above and beyond the safe tribute act that plagues many such compilations. Given that Perfect As Cats features contributions from artists as bizarre as Indian Jewelry, conservatism is by no means an issue.
Disc one starts off strong, with Xu Xu Fang’s trippy, epic take on “Fascination Street” setting a spacey, morose tone, with Bat For Lashes’ elegantly dark cover of “A Forest” following, and even setting the bar higher. Hecuba’s avant garde-isms on “Killing An Arab” are admirable, but fall short of making it an interesting track in itself. Then come two versions of “The Walk,” one very cool, and one completely disposable. The first is by Indian Jewelry, who take the song into very strange and noisy terrain, but Geneva Jacuzzi’s cover sounds nearly identical to the original’s arrangement, which sort of defeats the purpose of this entire exercise. WE ARE THE WORLD’s “Why Can’t I Be You” is a spastic IDM-pop take, obnoxious but adventurous, while Rio en Medio’s crackly “Pictures of You” almost sounds like two separate tracks…what’s the term…mashed up. From there a series of disappointing tracks takes over until The Devastations’ reading of “All Cats Are Grey,” easily one of the best tracks here, if not the best.
Disc two offers its share of highlights as well, though by that point listening becomes a bit more taxing. Jesu’s perfectly somber reading of “The Funeral Party” is both all-too-fitting for Justin Broadrick’s metalgaze outfit, and quite lovely in execution. Kaki King’s stripped-down cover of “Close to Me” is, likewise, a pretty and unique offering. And the Dandy Warhols’ psychedelic version of “Primary” is pretty fun as well. But even then, the listener has likely endured 20 different tracks, some of them good, many of them underwhelming, and some of them just plain bad. And in a few more weeks, we’ll get to do this whole thing over again. Like all tributes, Perfect As Cats is extremely uneven, but it clearly and successfully accomplishes its intent—to draw attention and remind listeners of the greatness of the source material.