Sound: With the popularity of an act like Apocalyptica, hearing a buzz about the up-and-coming Croatian cellist duo 2CELLOS didn't seem like a huge stretch at first. The words "at first" need to be emphasized. Upon listening to 24-year-olds Luka ulić and Stjepan Hauser on their debut record on Sony Masterworks, it's obvious that the musicians aren't trying to cater to any particular audience and are simply focused upon creating quality music. The tracklist is an eclectic one to be sure, but the cellists handle a good number of genres easily. Although the duo's debut album is chock-full of covers, 2CELLOS isn't trying to create replicas of metal favorites and perhaps to the chagrin of some out there the duo is also most definitely not afraid to find its softer, more sentimental side.
If you haven't seen any clips of ulić and Hauser, do yourself a favor and look some up on the trusty YouTube. Their performance on Ellen Degeneres' talk show is indicative of the youthful energy that the cellists pour into every performance, and the novelty of playing "Smooth Criminal" as a classical (and yet still pretty funky) piece is a big lure. With Michael Jackson's "Smooth Criminal" and Guns N' Roses' "Welcome To The Jungle" you instantly hear the creativity poured out into the arrangements, particularly with the latter song's "Sha-na-na-na serpentine" moments. The cover of Dick Dale's "Misirlou" is infectious in its own right, and oddly enough the cello version becomes more cinematic than the original that landed in the film "Pulp Fiction".
For every hip "Smooth Criminal" offering there is another handful of more subdued tracks that are certainly not trying to cause a huge stir. The arrangements of Kings Of Leon's "Use Somebody", Sting's "Fragile", and Coldplay's "Vida La Vida" are tasteful to the nth degree. The format is essentially true to the original, only 2CELLOS' obvious classical influence is thick. This shouldn't obviously be a shocker, but because of acts like Apocalyptica you often expect something on the more dramatic side. Instead, 2CELLOS isn't afraid to stay quiet for the good of the song. Other covers included on the album are Nirvana's "Smells Like Teen Spirit", Muse's "The Resistance", and NIN's "Hurt".
The record opens and closes with U2 tracks ("Where The Streets Have No Name" and "With Or Without You"), which couldn't be more fitting. The duo's approach to the majority of the songs is more about texture or a percussive quality, which is often present within the work of U2. 2CELLOS' resistance against flashy, over-the-top tracks may not connect with those who might have issues with straightforward classical music, but the talent of ulić and Hauser is undeniable to anyone who can embrace the solemn moments on the debut record. // 9
Lyrics: Although the original versions of the 12 tracks did feature vocals, the debut record from 2CELLOS is completely instrumental. // 10
Overall Impression: 2CELLOS made some interesting musical choices on their debut record, with Sting's "Fragile" finding a home next to the seedy grit of GN'R's "Welcome To The Jungle". You can possibly use the words "awesome" or "intense" to describe a few of the tracks, but "beautiful" or "classy" are more apt adjectives for the tracks on the album. It's true that a song like "Use Somebody" might stay way too faithful to the original (without adding in any rock flavor) and doesn't produce the same "wow" factor, but the awe-inspiring musicianship cannot be denied even in the slowest, quietest moments. // 9