Day of the Dead
Though not as flat-out god-awful as the staggeringly bad Paul McCartney tribute album last year this multi-disc Grateful Dead tribute album is nearly as point-missingly bad and deserves extra points off for its blatant “cool” factor. At least The Art of McCartney wasn’t trying to be cool, it almost went too far the other way in fact but for this 4AD release it’s as if anyone with a Pitchfork average rating of 7.8 was called into a meeting and issued a Grateful Dead album and told quickly to mention, in as many places as possible, that they’d always been a fan.
Lurching, stumbling, idiotic takes from darlings like The National and Courtney Barnett get nowhere near the spirit of the Dead.
One or two hit the board if not the bullseye – the liquid guitar lines on the Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy cut, a decent effort from the usually dependable Kurt Vile, Wilco teaming with Bob Weir for a perfectly fine St Stephen (but that doesn’t count -it’s a live curio that would have existed anyway) and probably the only thing to really succeed as being both truly wonderful and believably a tribute in any sense is Unknown Mortal Orchestra’s Shakedown Street. UMO shares a few things in common with the dead, not least making a virtue of potentially limiting vocals.
Other than that its ponderous and plodding and chin-strokingly sincere. Fucking Mumford & Fucking Sons turn Friend of the Devil into a horrible dirge. Even Phosphorescent, almost always great, isn’t quite believable here. That’s the big issue – they can scream until they’re slightly less bearded, but I don’t believe that these people understood – or even listened at all to – The Grateful Dead. It’s impossible to hear it in the music they’ve painstakingly, yawn-inducingly assembled here.
A giant fucking waste of anyone’s time.