Millions of musicians make their living in cover bands, keeping crowds satisfied with the tried, true and familiar night after night. The key to their success is often based on their ability to keep the arrangements and vocals as close to the original as possible. Stay safe, don’t challenge. Limit the set list to big hits only. He who is the least creative wins.
In other words, EVERYTHING that King Ropes – led by well-traveled visionary and sonically inventive frontman Dave Hollier - thankfully does NOT do on Go Back Where They Came From, the Bozeman, Montana based band’s brilliant collection of infectious yet offbeat (and sometimes uniquely dark, dystopian and atonal) re-imaginings of songs by a weird and wide variety of artists and bands that influenced Hollier and his crew.
The key is bringing the long gestating, dark, haunting King Ropes aesthetic to a batch of mostly obscure songs by artists whose catalogs we thought we knew – but now we realize we didn’t dig deep enough into. Thankfully, Hollier does the raw, edgy, moody and atmospheric work for us. For those new to the King Ropes experience, their unique vibe has developed not just over the course of three original band projects since 2016 but has been in motion since Hollier launched their original incarnation under another name in his native Brooklyn years back.
It would be fascinating to get into the singer/songwriter’s head to figure out why and how he chose mind-numbingly weird album cut oddities like Talking Heads’ “Drugs” (a David Byrne-Brian Eno sonic acid trip spaced out even further here) and The Beastie Boys’ already dingy, plodding and atmospheric “Song for The Man.” Likewise with songs by Ray Charles (“The Danger Zone”), Willie Nelson (a distorted guitar and marching percussion driven “Bloody Mary Morning”) and Steve Earle (“Transcendental Blues”) that would inspire some intense rummaging by even those artist’s biggest fans. Another wondrous head scratcher is the brooding spin through “Eisler on the Go,” from a unique Billy Bragg and Wilco concept album setting music to previously unheard lyrics by Woody Guthrie.
For those with more mainstream pop sensibilities – and this may be the most ear catching way into the deeper experience here – King Ropes presents an appropriately dreamy, atmospheric and soaring take on Elton John’s “Rocket Man,” a raucous, psychedelic spin through Al Green’s “Take Me To The River” and a moody yet whimsical march through Roger Miller’s “King of the Road.”