REVIEW: Various, Take Warning: The Songs of Operation Ivy (Glue Factory)

-Eric Hsu

I don’t really get these tribute albums. I can understand those Sweet-Relief types that are meant to fund-raise, or when superstars get together to promote some unknown but influential artist. But then there are those where the tributee is way more famous than almost everyone else on the record (like Heaven and Hell which is a bunch of modern rock band covering Velvet Underground songs). It seems like a much more genuine tribute to actually cover a song on your own record instead of on some cooked-up studio project.

So, that said, I think this record stands up pretty well on its own. There’s something charming about this collection, released by an indie label with none of the bands remotely as well known as Op Ivy. Operation Ivy was an essential band in the East Bay Gilman-scene, and split up because Jesse the lead singer thought they were getting too big (or so I’ve been told). As is well-known, Lint and bassist Matt formed Rancid, thus insuring Op Ivy’s cult status. I guess it’s a bunch of guys (mostly the record label, I’d guess) trying to catch what Op Ivy bandwagon there is, but with a certain awareness and distance. There’s a good balance of respect and irreverence, both in the cover styles and the liner notes, some of which talk about how the bands didn’t like Op Ivy when they were together, or even until the making of this record!

A number of bands do fairly straight covers that get by on the original song’s strength: Cherry Poppin’ Daddies cover “Sound System”, Reel Big Fish do “Unity”, and My Superhero do “Big City”. Some bands go on tangents, like Pocket Lent’s acidified version of “Bankshot” and Marshall Arts’s hip-hop cover of “Bad Town”, both of which I enjoy against my will and the Long Beach Dub All-stars do a version of “Take Warning” that breaks for a jazzy solo middle. Most of the songs are competently done, though the Teen Heroes’s power-pop version of “Smiling” does fill me with a certain loathing, and the Aquabats thoroughly destroy “Knowledge” in an inspired joke campfire singalong which left me desperately missing the original.

There is enough variety on this cover record to make it listenable, which is saying something for me, because too much ska-punk bores me. If you want to hear a sampler of ska bands or ska-positive bands, this is not a bad place to start. If you want to hear Op Ivy songs, just buy Energy for crying out loud.