If you?re like me (poor you), you probably haven?t spent nearly enough time getting to know the work of former Limp Bizkit guitarist Wes Borland. Personally I?d always given Wes more credit for the Bizkit sound (itself lumped in with what industry honchos lamely dubbed ?Nu-Metal?) than the grossly overrated Fred Durst (I?m sure I?ll catch hell for that? haters, take a number) and I?m guessing I probably began to tire of LB?s music roughly the same time Wes opted to part ways with the band. But in light of his post-Bizkit projects, particularly the darkly inventive Black Light Burns, I can totally understand why Wes wanted to cut loose from pop-rock convention and get his own wicked groove on...
After ambitious side-projects Big Dumb Face and Eat the Day fell into ruin, Borland finally hit creative gold with Black Light Burns, a post-industrial outfit that managed to put a heavy dent in listener?s skulls last year with their debut album Cruel Melody. I?d wager this newfound mojo benefited a lot from the input of high-profile participants like Josh Freese and Danny Lohner ? both former members of Nine Inch Nails and A Perfect Circle, to name just a couple of their many projects.
On the surface, BLB?s new CD Cover Your Heart is an interim release, presumably to tide fans over while Borland and company (now minus Lohner and Freese) work feverishly on their as-yet-untitled follow-up album. But just because this is basically a collection of eccentric cover tunes and avant-garde instrumentals doesn?t mean the project can be dismissed as the musical equivalent of fridge hash. Think of it more as a gigantic B-side to Cruel Melody, expanding Borland?s vision in unique ways, leaving plenty of room to play around without compromising the ?brand,? so to speak.
To that end, indie label Wolfpack offers a deluxe edition containing both CDs as well as bonus DVD The Anvil Pants Odyssey, which features music videos from Cruel Melody (including the creepy hit ?Lie?), a tour documentary and other extras. But for now, let?s focus on the new tracks.
A total of ten cover songs make up the first half of the album, and this is definitely one of the most eccentric collections of its kind. Don?t get me wrong, eccentric is often a good thing, and that goes double here ? besides, where else would you find songs from Jello Biafra/Al Jourgensen project Lard (?Forkboy?) getting all snuggly with Fiona Apple (?On the Bound?) and Duran Duran?s ?Hungry Like the Wolf?? It?s a brave undertaking that began with Borland?s desire to remake Jesus Lizard?s ?The Art of Self Defense? (which he handles quite well), and the project just exploded from there. But how the hell did he arrive at some common thread to tie these diverse songs together?
Best qualified to answer that question is Borland himself, who explains the project as a fun way to process each of the sounds that inspired him through the weird filter of his own creativity. ?You think: what direction do I want to see this go? How can I make this sound like my band?s doing it?? Borland explains in the band?s press release. ?It?s so much fun to take a song from one of your heroes and mix your own filth into it? you know, really create a Frankenstein?s monster of a song.? Cover Your Heart may be comprised of other artists? flesh and bones stitched and bolted together by an apparent madman, but it?s definitely alive with electrical power? and it can snap your spine with a single swipe.
Being such a mixed bag, you may not like everything in it? but there?s some rock-solid winners in here to be sure: the Jesus Lizard track is dead-on, spiced with crazy synth sweeps; there?s a turbo-charged industrial take on Love & Rockets? ?So Alive? that replaces the sleek sexiness of the original with a sleazy, menacing grind (recalling industrial super-group Pigface); and the awesome interpretation of Sisters of Mercy?s ?Lucretia My Reflection? features superb Gother-than-thou vocals. PJ Harvey?s ?Rid of Me? captures the menace and cranks up the manic intensity of its inspiration; and the ecstatic rendition of Iggy Pop?s ?Search and Destroy? is straight-up awesome.
Not sure I?m down with the whole Duran Duran thing though. Sure, I love that song, being a child of the ?80s (more or less), but it?s too straightforward of an interpretation and doesn?t really receive the aforementioned ?filth injection? that enhances most of its companion tracks. Ironically, the Fiona Apple cover actually loses something in the transition to a more recognizable Borland sound.
Even if the covers don?t all hit the target, the following seven instrumentals are right on the money. Crossing a wide spectrum of styles from pensive ambient textures to old-school electronics to abrasive experimental noise, the band carries it off beautifully ? and once you?ve heard them, they?ll get stuck in your cerebellum like polished-steel spikes. That?s a good thing, by the way.
?Drowning Together, Dying Alone? is the smoothest ? and catchiest ? of the bunch, with gentle acoustic guitar supporting a fuzzy synth melody, which stands in stark contrast to the lumbering, Charlie Clouser-style ?Ribbons? and the schizophrenic ?Zargon Morfoauf? (if I ever get another hamster, that will definitely be his/her name), while the minimalist electronic shuffle of ?Giving In Again? sounds a bit like a vintage John Carpenter score ? never a bad thing in my book. Short but sweet, keepers all around. Getcha some.
Like Radiohead and Trent Reznor, Borland has opted with this release to reject the outdated music distribution model in favor of the increasingly popular ?pick your own? method, with cool options to choose from. Fans will no doubt want to cough up at least $25 for the special edition (includes the DVD and a t-shirt), or dig a lot deeper (around $100) for the deluxe set with both albums, the DVD, and a short-run hardcover book of Borland?s original artwork (he creates all the band?s promotional art). Those on a tight budget can download the entire album for $5, or if you?re seriously low on cash, you can download the instrumental tracks for free. It?s really cool seeing more and more artists going this route? it?s definitely a step in the right direction.
No matter how deeply you dip, you?re going to get something interesting out of this effort. The covers are fun, but I?m partial to the instrumentals myself, which seem a natural fit for a deadly-serious horror flick. All in all, it?s got me amped up for what?s coming next ? hopefully after not too long a wait.