I’m not a big cover song lover. Unless it’s Florida based New Found Glory doing the covering.
Now entering their tenth year together as a band, this five piece pop-punk powerhouse are often considered some of the forefathers of the genre. Their infectious energy, accessibility, and dedicated touring garnered them a rabid following in the late 90s and early 00s. If it weren’t for New Found Glory, it is a distinct possibility that bands like Cartel, Fall Out Boy, and Taking Back Sunday wouldn’t be nearly so popular today. But more about those bands later.
It was 1999 when I first heard the track “Hit or Miss” off of the album Nothing Gold Can Stay. I listened to it over and over again and knew that I was hearing something special. Jordan Pundik’s vocals were different than anything else I had heard out there at the time – more nasally, filled with hopeless optimism yet sparked with angsty teenage boy abandon, and just more fun. Set that to fast paced drums, catchy hooks, and lyrics from Chad Gilbert like “The needle on my record player has been wearing thin,” and “Remember the time we realized ‘Thriller’ was our favorite song” and I was hooked.
Signing with small indie label Drive-Thru Records was a smart move for New Found Glory and despite a move to Geffen in later years, they still enjoy a strong relationship with the label. Perhaps it was founded on the success of their self-titled album, released in September of 2000. With a re-recording of “Hit or Miss,” the stand-out track “Dressed to Kill,” and my personal favorite NFG song, “Eyesore,” the album was eaten up by hungry fans and eventually went gold in 2003. Since then they’ve had two more gold albums (Sticks and Stones and Catalyst), a new release in 2006, and three headlining stints on the Vans Warped Tour.
But one of their more memorable turns came the same year that New Found Glory was released. Six months before that album dropped, Drive-Thru released a seven song EP titled From the Screen to Your Stereo. It featured covers of songs all pulled from movies, including the perpetual fan favorite “The Glory of Love,” from The Karate Kid Part II.
Fast-forward seven years later and we find NFG parted from Geffen and releasing a new album of covers distributed by Drive-Thru but done completely on their own terms. And boy has the hard work paid off.
From the Screen to Your Stereo Part 2 is a full-length album featuring 11 covers, again with songs all previously featured in motion pictures. The sources are diverse (Napoleon Dynamite to Romeo + Juliet) and the guest vocalists are plentiful.
I should mention that this album, though covers, is probably one of the strongest that New Found Glory has ever produced. Having chosen mostly songs which could easily fit their existing catalogue, they have taken their musicianship to a new level and the ways in which they have put their own rock sensibilities into these songs is both masterful and completely enchanting. Add to that the fact that Pundik’s voice has seemingly dropped into a slightly lower and lovely register and you have what should be a hit album.
The opening track and first single from the disc is “Kiss Me,” from the 1999 bore-fest, She’s All That. Sticking heavily to the melodies put forth by original band Sixpence None the Richer, NFG kick things up a notch by speeding it all up and employing their rock-steady cheekiness to the mix. It is also one of the few songs that does not feature a guest vocalist. There is Patrick Stump of Fall Out Boy, Will Pugh of Cartel, and Adam Lazarra of Taking Back Sunday. See? I said I would get back to them later.
Some of the standouts tracks include “The King of Wishful Thinking” (from Pretty Woman) and “Head Over Heels” from mega 80's band Tears for Fears and borrowed from the Donnie Darko soundtrack.
There are a couple of issues throughout, most notably with “Iris” from City of Angels and the instrumental track “J’y Suis Jamais Alle” from Amelie. The former is well-done but sounds almost identical to the original and the latter does not translate particularly well. It is a much harder sound, which New Found Glory typically does well, but does not fit with this pop laden aesthetic.
But all of those criticisms pale in comparison to my three favorite tracks. First is “Crazy for You” from Vision Quest (yeah, I barely remember it either) and featuring Max Bemis of Say Anything. This is possibly one of the best Madonna songs ever used in a film and combining the raw nature of Bemis’ voice with the excitement in Pundik’s gives the song a fresh spin. It sounds so much like New Found Glory in their self-titled days that I feel like it has always been their song.
The fifth track was one I never expected to see covered on an album because of its legendary status. “Stay(I Missed You)” was a massive hit for Lisa Loeb and made her instantly newsworthy when Ethan Hawke gave the song to Ben Stiller when he was directing Reality Bites. Loeb became the first artist ever to hit the Hot 100 chart before being signed to a record label.
With a past like that, it’s like trying to re-do perfection. New Found Glory, it seems, has improved upon it. “Stay” is surprisingly well suited as a rock number and it is magical when Loeb herself duets with Pundik.
All that said, though, the best track is by far the band’s cover of “Don’t You Forget About Me” from the legendary John Hughes’ film The Breakfast Club. New Found Glory keeps all of the teen rebellion, anger, and expectation imparted by original band Simple Minds, but puts such a modern spin on the song that it could take over radio waves today.
If you have never heard of New Found Glory, get this album. There is no better way to fall in love with a band than to hear them re-invent some of your favorite songs in a way that is both respectful and energizing.
If you are a long time fan like me, there is absolutely no way that you will be disappointed in this album. It is a great band at their very best and it truly will bring the screen right to your stereo.