Review: Various Artists ‘New Wave Donut’

Wax Donut label head Morey Straus, much like myself is ‘a total nut for the new wave and post-punk music of the late-‘70s to mid-‘80s’. Seeing as he was responsible for bringing us the excellent A Future Of Bad Men: A Melvins Tribute and Night Goat‘s Totem, the signs are thus favourable for New Wave Donut.

Various Artists 'New Wave Donut' Artwork
Various Artists ‘New Wave Donut’ Artwork

According to Straus, the criteria for the record was simple, bands had a choice of what song to cover, as long as it was within the project’s musical remit. The album’s fantastic cover art by Chris Bentley of Ohio’s Night Goat further reinforces this by really fixing in your mind the time period the album is set in, making it an even more enticing project for yours truly.

My first exposure to Atlanta four-piece Naw was via their 10” split with Asbestos Worker and here they tackle Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark Electricity with absolute gusto. Whereas the original was heavily inspired by Kraftwerk’s minimalist synth pop, in Naw‘s capable hands it’s transformed into energizing post-hardcore with a sneering John Lydon Vocal. Sublime.

Next up is Allentown, Pennsylvania’s Wipes with their cover of Tubeway Army‘s Are Friends Electric? Whereas the original had a cool detachment to it, Wipes bring abrasive Melvins sludgy noise-rock to proceedings which makes for a pretty decent interpretation. Gary Numan hasn’t always had the best luck when it comes to his work being covered, as Fear Factory’s take on Cars would testify to. I wouldn’t make my worst enemy sit through that, but thankfully that’s not the case here.

Suburban Lawns are new to me which meant a little research was required. From what I could tell they were a little in the Devo and Chrome vein and Science Man‘s take on Gossip does a remarkable job at retaining the off-kilter quirky vibes of the original but with a modern day twist ala Six Finger Satellite. Oregon’s The Kronk Men slow the pace down considerably giving short-lived new wavers Theatre Of Sheep‘s Pyramids Babylon a doomy surf makeover resulting it being a lot less frantic, but instead more spacious and eerie. A great cover.

Hats off to Morey for this superb collection which serves as a fitting tribute to a scene which forever changed the musical landscape…

Ah, Ministry and Al Jorgensen‘s infamous hatred for their With Sympathy debut. Fortunately, I think he’d be more forgiving and even quietly impressed with Basement Family‘s sublime take on Work For Love that transforms the original from fairly sweet twee synth-pop into My Bloody Valentine inspired shoegaze ethereal loveliness. A personal favourite by some distance.

I’ll admit to never being the biggest Eurythmics fan, but Bethlehem, Pennsylvania’s Bovine Nightmares transform what is a fairly average melancholy ballad into something truly epic. Moody goth theatrics combine with eccentric Mr Bungle metal and Mike Patton influenced vocals to produce something truly special.

It’s great to see Siouxsie And The Banshees‘ overlooked Hyena album finally getting an acknowledgement, with Night Goat predictably doing a great version of Bring Me The Head Of The Preacher Man. Vocalist Julia Bentley bares a similarity to Siouxsie, but the music shakes loose the original’s neo-psychedelic flourishes to produce something altogether darker. Wow. Finally, there’s Seattle’s Glose and their cover of Tears For Fears Everybody Wants To Rule The World. After the gloom and doom of Night Goat, the contrastingly lighter change in style helps draw the album to a satisfyingly anthemic conclusion.

Hats off to Morey for this superb collection which serves as a fitting tribute to a scene which forever changed the musical landscape, as well as a consolation to those like myself who were too young at the time to appreciate it.

Label: Wax Donut Records

Scribed by: Reza Mills