Review Summary: Hesistant cover songs as well as limited musicanship nearly doom this album into obscurity. Thank God for the last track.
George Petit – Vocals
Chris Steele – Bass
Dallas Green – Guitar, Vocals
Wade McNeil – Guitar
Jordan “Ratbeard” Hastings - Drums
Erik Hughes – Bass, Vocals
Kenny Bridges – Vocals, Guitar
Chris “Hippy” Hughes – Guitar, Vocals
Steve Nunnaro – Drums
In 2005 one great band (Alexisonfire) and one mediocre band (Moneen) joined forces to create the Split EP The Switcheroo Series. The result was, as expected, somewhere between great and mediocre. Not essential listening by any means, it is still a worthwhile listen for fans of either band.
For the EP, each band covered two songs from their recording counterparts and also contributed an original. Generally, the covers come across as forced and unnatural, but still well performed. Because this is a split EP and the songs are performed by two different bands, it makes sense to do a track by track review. So here we go:
Passing Out in America
The album opens with an Alexisonfire cover of Moneen’s song, Passing of America. Having not heard the original song (I’ve never been much of a Moneen fan) I have nothing to say about how faithful or not this version is. This song is more playful and fun than one would expect from an Alexisonfire song especially in the middle pre-chorus section. Generally, the vocal parts are well split with the verses favouring the screaming of George and the chorus relying on Dallas’ smooth singing. The chorus is generic but it’s catchy enough to not want to make me immediately hit next. Overall, this song is fun to listen to, but predictable and doesn’t display the full talent of the band. 2.5/5
Accidents Are On Purpose
The lowlight of the album, hands down. This is the listeners’ first chance to hear how Moneen handle an Alexisonfire song. This track feels like an unnatural and forced cover, especially in the verses. The guitars are just bad; their sloppiness takes away from the driving tone of the song. The vocals…oh GOD those damn whiny vocals hurt my ears. The vocals don’t fit the music or lyrics at all and several important background vocals with key lyrics are missing (remember “cut me open drug me/repair all my defects” screamed by George in the original version, Accidents?). The drumming is decent, but I feel that the fills could have been more inventive. I kept waiting for a blistering snare drum fill but I was left unsatisfied. The melodic breakdown section of this song is very poorly done and much too drawn out. I mean, how many bars of “whoa-o-o-o” can the average human handle? The answer is “fewer than are in this track.” A hugely disappointing track especially considering that Accidents is one of Alexisonfire’s best songs. 1.5/5
Tonight I’m Going to Wash the Hippy
This is a good song. It’s nothing special, but worth a listen. The gradual buildup is nice and helps to break from the monotony of the rest of the album. More than Alexisonfire's other cover, George’s vocals fit this song well. The instrumentation is well thought out, being sparse one moment but full and lush the next. The mid-section breakdown contains some of the albums only great Moneen lyrics and is well done. Not a particularly memorable song, but a welcome change from most of the other monotonous songs on the album. 3.5/5
Sharks in Danger
This track is better than the other Moneen cover on the album, but not by much. The good thing to be said about this song is that it’s a faithful recreation of Alexisonfire’s song Sharks and Danger. It doesn’t venture into any uncharted territory, which some may take as boring, but I’d rather have this than another disastrously misinterpreted cover like Accidents Are On Purpose. The bass is actually audible in this song which is a plus because the bass player performs well (at least in the first verse). The vocals are not good. Again, they are whiny and not worth the pain endured by my ears. The screaming is brief and decent at best but at least it gives us all a break from whiny hell.
Bleed and Blister
This song, a Moneen original, is better then their covers. Right from the song intro, which contains a catchy pop-punk guitar riff, Moneen sound more comfortable with the material they’re playing. Well, I guess they did write this one themselves so that was to be expected. The vocals are better on this track, but still whiny and borderline unlistenable. One highlight of this song, and Moneen’s presence on this album, is the lyric “we must whisper, they might hear” backed up by quieter (whispering) instruments. If nothing else, it seems to help break the predictability that plagues all of Moneen’s tracks on this album. 2.5/5
Charlie Sheen vs. Henry Rollins
If not for this song, I would not hesitate to call this split EP a complete failure. Alexisonfire’s original song Charlie Sheen vs. Henry Rollins is an album closer far more worthy then the album it closes. This is Alexisonfire at their best and is essential listening for any AOF fan (or any music fan for that matter). This song is high energy from the very beginning opening with an extended lightening-fast drum-roll (well, not lightening fast…but pretty fast) over driving power chords. Then comes the pain. What the album has been lacking the entire way through, some excellent vocal work courtesy of George Petit, finally blesses my eager ears. His screaming on this track is a nice hybrid of the passionate, but sometimes cryptic, vocals of Alexisonfire’s self-titled debut and the more audible screams of 2006’s Crisis. Every time I hear George scream “there’s one thing for sure/this is not a ***ing love song” I can’t help but sing along. The juxtaposition between Dallas’ serene singing and George’s screaming on this track is classic Alexisonfire. It sounds like two halves of the same brain. Unlike the other songs on this album, the song-structure is somewhat unique. Not progressive, surely, but also not generic or predictable. The climax of the song features Dallas belting out “I don’t think we’re gonna make it out” over George screaming “This won’t end well.” These lyrics fit the unsettling mood of the song perfectly. Ironically though, the aforementioned lyrics assure that the album does end well. 5/5
Overall, this album will likely only show up as a footnote when discussing these bands in the future. The main issue lies in the fact that the covers sound mostly forced. When creative license to change the song is taken, it’s done poorly. The originals are better than the covers, feeling more natural. If you like Alexisonfire’s other work (especially Watch Out!), this album is worth the time only for the fact that it contains one of their best tracks to date. However, without that one saving grace, the powerful closer, this album would be destined to feel the wrath of my delete key.