Another tribute album? Make them stop, Mommy. Well, after this one maybe. Despite one man’s studied opinion that the Cars only made one good album (1978’s debut The Cars), if the whole raison d’être for a tribute is not a group wank but rather to refocus on what made the band special in the first place, then Substitution Mass Confusion could pass any audition. Every such project has its missteps, of course. The less said, the better, about Butch Walker’s take on “My Best Friend’s Girl” — here reworked acoustically as “My Best Friend’s Magic Girlfriend,” it strips away all the lust and danger of the original version. But when Chicago’s Millions replaster the formidable wall of sound that is “You’re All I’ve Got Tonight,” or when New Jersey’s Spiraling nails the dreamy-hard vibe of “Bye Bye Love,” or even when Boston’s femme-fronted Damone recasts “Just What I Needed” as a post-Avril punk-pop anthem, well, it almost feels like it’s 1978 all over again. Even better, some of the post-The Cars material here — Doug Powell’s fuzztoned “Candy-O,” Jon (Posies) Auer’s luminous “Misfit Kid,” Bleu’s candy-gloss “You Might Think” — are provocative enough to suggest that one man’s studied opinion might need reassessing. And that, my friends, is what happens when a tribute album is really doing its job.
Fred Mills writes about music for Metro Times. Send comments to [email protected].