Starts off well but doesn’t bring it home
Another day, another covers album, this time from The Record Company, one of the more interesting acts in the overexposed genre of blues-rock that has been eaten alive by the media and watered down to be used for advertisements and end-of-episode montages. They’ve got a good mix of driving songs and classic, waltzing tempo slow burns, and their command of richer instrumentation like pianos and pedal steel gives them more interesting texture than a lot of their peers. The Side Project EP is actually their second cover EP, released nine years after the simply titled Covers Ep, and it’s got a similar blend of slightly-too-obvious choices from their obvious influences and strange forays into other genres like rap-rock. Sadly, many of these songs start strong yet fail to keep up their momentum with interesting sounds that they are definitely capable of.
The Covers EP featured some rather obvious picks, including The Stooge’s “I Wanna Be Your Dog” and Freddy Cannon’s “Tallahassee Lassie,” the Rolling Stones, one of The Record Company’s most obvious influence, even beat them to the punch with their own cover a year early. The curveball was a pretty exceptional, Southern-fried take on The Beastie Boy’s “So What’cha Want,” where the rapping didn’t fall into the flavorless, tuneless trappings typical of bro-country, and the original’s omnipresent scratching was transformed into driven acoustic shred.
The obvious songs for this EP (Side Project) are Willie Dixon’s blues standard “Spoonful,” which already has famous covers by Cream and Howlin’ Wolf, and Big Mama Thorton’s classic “Ball And Chain,” arguably more known for a slower, break-filled version by Janis Joplin. The more interesting choices are INXS’s “Devil Inside,” among the most scintillating and scuzzy of theirs, and another rap-rock song in Cyprus Hill’s “I Wanna Get High.”
The Record Company have an agreeable tone and enjoyable vocalist in Chris Vos, and each song starts out intriguing enough. The repetition of “Ball And Chain” is less enjoyable without Big Mama Thornton or Janis Joplin’s raw power as Vos’s take on the hook is looped rather than improvised each time, but the driving rhythm accented by eerie piano similar to “I Wanna Be Your Dog” gives an interesting, faster take. On the other hand, “Devil Inside” is a little slower than the original, but it amps up the distortion on that lead riff with some soulful backing vocals for a great start. “I Wanna Get High” finds Vos once again comfortable with a rap cadence, alongside anguished guitar chords that match the siren-like beat of the original, and “Spoonful” may not have the amazing solos of Cream or Dixon, but has its own flavor of menacing acoustics, minor-key pianos and Vos’s most dynamic vocal performance.
Sadly, “Spoonful” ends up the only song with an intriguing build and composition, as Vos ramps up the intensity, and extra instrumentation helps the swell. The Record Company typically does a good job of going beyond the bass-guitar-drums formula, yet that doesn’t happen in Side Project EP. “Ball And Chain” gets really repetitive without the solos and sheer vocal rawness, and it doesn’t switch things upside aside from the single piano notes getting louder as the song goes. There’s nothing to replicate the flashy synths of the original “Devil Inside” that brought it all home; even though The Record’s Company’s version is shorter, it somehow feels longer without anything new in the bridge. Rap songs like “I Wanna Get High” tend to naturally be one-note instrumentally; the dynamics come from the rapper’s flow. The guitars sound like they are about to break out into a powerful solo, but it just fades out with nothing new. Each song on Side Project EP feels frustratingly one-note; it’s a good one-note but disappointing from a group capable of greatness.