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Cock E.S.P. / Panicsville - Last Train To Cocksville

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Artist: Cock E.S.P. / Panicsville

Album: Last Train To Cocksville

Label: Little Mafia

Review date: Apr. 7, 2004

The tribute song or album seems to often bring to life an interesting quandary: is it better to recreate the music as faithfully as possible to the original, or is it more important to alter the song by having the new performer inject as much of his own voice as possible, whether it is to the benefit or detriment of the original song? Cock E.S.P. and Panicsville, two of the Midwest’s more recognizable noise acts, take this question to heart on Last Train to Cocksville, an homage to their obvious stylistic predecessors, the Monkees. And while other musicians might approach such well-known and, at least in some circles, loved music with a hint of trepidation or delicacy, Emil Hagstrom and Andy Ortmann, heads of Cock E.S.P. and Panicsville, respectively, attack the music of Jones, Tork, Nesmith, and Dolenz with a ferocity that would force even the most dedicated and knowledgeable Monkees fan to resort to dental records for identification purposes.

“Theme from Cocksville” starts off the disc with some grating noise and an easily recognizable sample from the Monkees’ song of (almost) the same name, but it’s by far one of the more easily identified sound sources from the original quartet’s material, as most of the disc’s ten tracks offer very little audible evidence as to their former identities. Looking at track titles, however, it’s easy to discern which songs “Last Train to Cocksville” or “Panicsville Sunday” refer to. A straighter cover (relatively speaking) of “She” is one of the only other exceptions to the album’s harsh treatments.

Much of the material on Last Train to Cocksville is just what one might expect from a collaboration of Hagstrom, Ortmann, and the other musicians who make up their respective musical outifts; that is, harsh electronics, grating noises, and spookily inhabited wastelands of sonic detritus. It’s possible that there’s a little bit of the original version of “Goin’ Down” somewhere in the version that’s been cooked up here, but the amplified sounds of the sonic garbage displosal it’s been fed into are far more evident. “She” and “Last Train to Cocksville” feature warped renditions of the songs’ orignal lyrics, granted through an almost Residents-like kaleidoscope.

Of course, from the cover photo and insert art to the actual execution of the songs, there’s a sense of humor that pervades Last Train to Cocksville, and its this humor that could tend to polarize listeners. Is this collaboration a tribute to a band enjoyed by those involved, simply spiced up with a dash of Cock E.S.P. and Panicsville’s natural flavorings, or is it a silly idea gone worse, a “Last Train to Clarksville” pun taken too far? To these ears, the motivation behind this album matters little. Regardless of Emil Hagstrom’s true feelings about Davy Jones’ voice or whether or not Andy Ortmann enjoys watching Head, Last Train to Cocksville contains work that’s up to par with much of the two groups’ outputs. And while it, perhaps, might not be an essential piece of the burgeoning discographies of either band, or even neccesarily a good starting point from which to discover their work, this disc offers some fun, interesting twists on their sounds, and, if nothing else, can be enjoyed as something a little different to those who feel as though they’ve heard it all whenit comes to either of the involved groups. Fans of the Monkees, be warned. Fans of Cock E.S.P. and Panicsville, put on your conductor’s hats and ready yourself for a noisy kick to the Monkees’ collective caboose. All aboard!

By Adam Strohm

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