Stop me if you have heard this one before: two guys that look like they belong on the O.C. start an all cello band that covers popular songs. If you have heard this one before, I am shocked. Not since Rasputina has an all cello group captured the imagination of America quite like 2Cellos have. The Slavic duo gained popularity from a video of them performing Michael Jackson‘s “Smooth Criminal” on Youtube. Not even a full year after the video went viral, the duo release their self-titled debut album.
The men that comprise 2Cellos are masterful at their craft. Throughout the album, they demonstrate their skill through a myriad of different playing techniques. Each technique is executed with the proficiency that would make Yo-Yo Ma jealous. But instead of composing their own tracks or playing concertos, they are covering pop tunes by the likes of U2, Muse, and Coldplay. I am not saying it is a waste of talent, but even Michael Jackson knew while writing “Smooth Criminal” that he was not composing something as difficult as a Schumann cello concerto. Yet I am sure that covering pop songs on cello is probably a better paying gig than toiling away in a symphony orchestra, so we have 2Cellos debut album.
The problem with the debut album is that many of the songs bear little resemblance to their original tunes. It takes a lot of listening to figure out that the opening track is a cover of U2’s “Where The Streets Have No Name.” The rapid fire cello playing just does not have the same sound or effect of The Edge’s echoed and reverbed guitar. Same cane be said for the bastardization of the immortal opening riff of Nirvana‘s “Smells Like Teen Spirit.” Cello, no matter how distorted, just can not hold a candle to Kurt Cobain’s guitar.
Not the entire album is a flop; the duo succeed on several occasions. Perhaps there is no bigger slam dunk for the two than covering Coldplay’s “Viva La Vida” whose original version heavily features a string section. But even a non-slam dunk like Guns N’ Roses‘ “Welcome to the Jungle,” 2Cellos manage to nail.
In the end, the album is kind of a mixed bag. The good tracks are great but I just question the relistenability of the album. Once you hear how Nine Inch Nail‘s “Hurt” sounds on cello do you really want to hear it over and over again? I, for one, do not.
2Cellos “Welcome to the Jungle”