Hindu Love Gods are REM with Michael Stipe played by Warren Zevon. They put out a cover album. That’s about what you need to know about this. It’s about what I wish I’d known from the start. Choosing this album from a recommendation took any spaces I would have for Zevon or REM albums, by my own rules. Way to trick me, you bastards. But then, it’s just absurd enough to work, and with a name like Hindu Love Gods, who could judge me for rushing to make room for their single, self-titled collection.
It is the REM portions of the band which are most surprising. REM are an excellent band for the introspective genre they are, but it is very far from the quick-n-dirty blues that makes up the majority of the tracks on this self titled effort. In some ways, I’d never guess them as the backing band here, especially as comfortable as they seem to fit into the groove. One wonders if they’re having the time of their life cutting loose. One wonders if Michael Stipe is embarrassed to think about it. Zevon, of course, is in full Zevon voice, maybe not as wild as he can get, but clearly comfortable. “Crosscut Saw” is the sort of raunchy blues you’d expect from him, subtle as the titular saw and so thinly veiled as to be transparent in innuendo. “Wang Dang Doodle” is classically cut from the same cloth. These are by and large the sort of songs you’d expect from Warren Zevon. Add in the howls of ”Vigilante Man” and “Travelin’ Riverside Blues” and we’re covering the bases. It’s not the man himself, and it’s not the same venom and sarcasm that his own work provides, but it still has the right flair.
The album works best when it’s brief and to the point: “Mannish Boy” may well be the weakest of the tracks here, despite being a blues classic, because the rendition goes on for over six minutes. This is an album that exists because it can, and while it’s done well by talented musicians, it’s also best when it stays simple. It’s why simple tracks like “Walkin’ Blues” make up the bulk here. Make no mistake, this is a wholly enjoyable spin, but with the possible exception of “Battleship Chains,” which feels like what would come out of this collaboration if it was trying to create new music, it’s also wholly inessential. You won’t regret it, but it probably won’t make you run out for a copy either.
Note: As we discussed the other day, there’s not a lot I can do outside the realm of what’s available on the web. In this case, that means Prince has struck, and the cover of “Raspberry Beret” on this album is nowhere to be found on the average media stops. Honestly though, I think this is for the best, honestly… it feels like that would be a joke cover, and far from the realm of the rest of the album. As a cohesive set of songs, this likely works better as it is.