Holy water turns fresh between Flaming Lips

Re-Machined, the tribute album to Deep Purple and their magnum opus Machine Head, will be released on September 25th via Eagle Records. Usually, for this kind of project, only one monster band is hiding amidst small-time acts, but this time, the list of big names is impressive: Santana, Chickenfoot, Black Label Society, Glenn Hughes, Kings of Chaos (with Def Leppard’s Joe Elliot, ex-Guns N’ Roses Matt Sorum and Duff McKagan, and Steve Stevens, Billy Idol’s guitarist, among other names in this big live project), and none other than Iron Maiden and Metallica at the end of the tracklist.

But the tribute is paid through imitation. No artistic risk was taken, the original score was followed academically, and no one dared crumple this precious musical heritage by giving a try at a more daring performance – nope, no exception, not even from Iron Maiden or Kings of Chaos. Of course it’s always nice to rediscover all the energy of the songs, and this album is a true racing car from the first minute to the last. But it also reeks of a quickly wrapped-up project. The feeling of déjà vu is everywhere, starting with Santana’s cover of “Smoke On The Water”, taken from his 2010 album, Guitar Heaven. Not to mention that it’s not the only cover of that song on the album, but more on that later. What’s more, on the admission of Joe Satriani himself, Chickenfoot didn’t have the time to record a cover, so the band had to rummage through live recordings from 2009 to be included on this tribute album.

But we’re not complaining – there were worst tributes to make. Let’s just point out that Zakk Wylde is being his usual grandiloquent, easily recognizable self on Black Label Society’s cover of “Picture Of Home”. Jimmy Barnes and Joe Bonamassa’s version of “Lazy” is above all a tribute to Jon Lord’s eerie organ playing. “Quickly wrapped-up” might also be a bit excessive; indeed, Metallica’s B-side “When A Blind Man Cries” might appear dispensable at first, but the band has managed to make it totally essential. The song makes an ideal finale for this album. Just like they did on their cover of Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds’ “Loverman” for Garage Inc., Kirk Hammet and Lars Ulrich in particular offer the best of what they can do in the studio. Consequently, we can’t help thinking that a Re-Garage Inc. would be interesting.

But the actual, unquestionable tribute on this album is Flaming Lips’ cover. Available on the Ultimate Classic Rock website, this track is all but consensual, especially on YouTube (see below), where a good three fourths of the “like/do not like” counter is made up of dissatisfied listeners.

And yet, in the midst of an album filled to the brim with big names from the hard rock and metal scene, the Oklahoma City rockers offer one of the most refreshing covers of this record. Two versions of “Smoke On The Water” could have been annoying, but the presence of Flaming Lips on this tribute record appears perfectly justified among all those conventional covers. This weird interlude sounds like the band asked a 10-year-old to fiddle with the music software on a digital tablet with an apple-shaped logo on its back.

This refreshing cover brings something new to one of the most heavily covered, reused, and hackneyed riffs in the history of music – so hackneyed, in fact, that guitar sellers are often tempted to hack off the hands of young enthusiasts who have a go at it in their store for the umpteenth time. It also revamps the idea that rock’n’roll should break all the codes and symbols of authority. Rock is iconoclastic and is meant to bring the sacred down – and that’s exactly what Deep Purple’s sacred song deserved. One can always love metal, which criticizes everything from power to money to religion and all that nonsense, without admitting that metal itself sometimes needs a little heresy. No mercy for the fanatics.

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