Bands release eps for several reasons: as a dumping ground for unused ideas, a repository of odds and sods that didn’t fit elsewhere, a way to experiment outside their sound, or simply as a means of reconnecting and re-energizing. “No Fun Intended”, the new ep from Minneapolitan stalwarts Soul Asylum, almost certainly falls into this last category. Weathering the loss of founding guitarist Dan Murphy (and the “defection” of late-period bassist Tommy Stinson to some other nobody Twin Cities combo :) ), Asylum mainman Dave Pirner decided to kick out the jams on three covers and attempt to breathe new life into the band, and he does so with gusto.
The take on “Attacking the Beat” by early Minneapolis compatriots Suicide Commandos bristles with the same nervous energy as the original and adds a nice slide counterpoint. Pirner’s vocals have aged nicely giving his delivery a deeper gravelly edge, and he snarls his way through the 90 second blitzkrieg. Does anyone need another note-perfect take on Joy Division’s seminal “Love Will Tear Us Apart”? Probably not, but it’s nice to hear the band stretch out into an area of post-punk that their fans may be largely unfamiliar with. The real gem, though, is the concluding cover of the MC5’s “Shakin’ Street” from their unfairly overlooked second album “Back in the USA”. Sounding like the bastard sons of Petty’s Heartbreakers, the band tears into the song with enough bite and jangle to give the original a run for its money.
After the crafted beauty of last year’s “Delayed Reaction”, it’s nice to see the band play fast and loose with some classics, and the sense of fun is palpable. Reportedly one in a series of eps, “No Fun Intended” (pun-filled title aside) shows a band getting its groove back and enjoying a new lease on life.