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V.A. – “Emo Is Awesome, Emo Is Evil” CD 19/72:62
This is a label sampler from Deep Elm Records out of North Carolina, and never have I seen a more fitting title before. There are 19 bands here, and this is the run down as far as I’m concerned: Good – The Appleseed Cast, The White Octave, Pop Unknown, Planes Mistaken for Stars, Seven Storey, Cross My Heart. Mediocre – Slowride, Camber, Red Animal War, Desert City Soundtrack, Lewis, Benton Falls, Logh, Hundred Hands, Starmarket. Bad – Brandtson, Last Days of April, This Beautiful Mess. Like most labels, you’ve got your good and your bad, and the first three bands on the ‘good’ list above are especially good. Most of the bands on Deep Elm aren’t ‘emo’ anyways in the sense of what gets played in your local Hot Topic and on Clear Channel radio stations, but more akin to the music of the mid-nineties – bands who took a lot of influence from Fugazi and The Cure, such as Sunny Day Real Estate, Mineral, Vitreous Humor, Cursive, etc. I still throw on one of these old records now and again and enjoy them thoroughly. I guess the moral of the story is not to write off a band just because the label their music has been given – or to use the tried but true adage, don’t judge a book by its cover. Jake
@ Deep Elm, Post Box 36939, Charlotte, NC 28236

V/A - “1157 Wheeler Avenue: A Memorial for Amadou Diallo” CD 14/47:27
This is a very varied benefit compilation for Human Rights Watch, in the name of the innocent guy who was shot 19 times by the NYPD for wielding a wallet in 1999. It’s a great cause that’s really not well served by this lukewarm compilation of underground bands. Some unreleased live and studio tracks mixed with some songs available elsewhere from new and familiar faces. While there are tunes from Strike Anywhere, J Church, Common Rider, Lawrence Arms, and Squirtgun, the only memorable tracks are from Anti Flag (covering “That’s When I Reach For My Revolver”) and Youth Brigade (who contribute their classic “Men In Blue”). The Anti Flag cover is interesting but not essential, and the Youth Brigade tune is the studio version from “Sound and Fury.” Don’t bother with the comp, just send Human Rights Watch $12 and avoid this CD. Jesse
@ Failed Experiment, 5420 S. Bishop St., Chicago, IL 60609

V/A - “A Cellarful Of Motown” 2XCD
40 tracks from the Motown vaults - this is a Northern Soul collecter’s fantasy. If you want tracks as great as the best Motown hits you won’t find them here. Motown were no dummies, they made sure the likely million sellers got out there. Berry Gordy conducted staff votes as to what should be released as singles, and some of these didn’t make the cut, but were the product of some great singers, writers and producers. One track here that rates among Motown’s great tracks is “Until You Came Along” by the unknown Carolyn Crawford. There’s also gems from Brenda Holloway, and singer/actress Barbara McNair (the set’s only Holland/Dozier production). Cult faves The Velvelettes contribute a winner with “Long Gone Lover”, and The Funk Brothers add an instrumental version of The Velvelettes cult hit “He Was Really Sayin’ Something”. Other shoulda been released tunes here include Martha and the Vandellas, Gladys Knight and the Pips, and the Temptations. Mel
@ www.universal chronicles.com

V/A - "A Fine Day and a Brilliant Evening" CD 18/54:16
In ascending order of quality: In Embrace seem to alternate between 4AD rejects and post-EBTG smooth-pop, and actually sound better on the former. They manage a couple of solid tunes, but not quite enough of them (one can see CR nay-sayers using them as evidence for the prosecution). Grab Grab the Haddock (the non-Tracey Thorn remnants of the Marine Girls) show how Cherry Red (and related segments of indiedom) seemed to shift from the bedsit to the coffeehouse and parts beyond; not bad at all and I definitely rate "I'm Used Now" as a gem. Pity they didn't stick around longer. Finally there's Jane & Burton, featuring their best-known number the vox-only "It's a Fine Day" as well a Guy Named Gerald remix of same and six other tunes. Not every track is exactly what I'd call "swell" (the piano-based tracks drag a bit, and someone should keep Burton the fuck away from the microphone), but they convincingly show they were more than a one-song wonder. A mixed bag overall, but the better tracks definitely make this worth checking out. Includes an enhanced vid of "It's a Fine Day" as well. David
@ www.cherryred.co.uk

V/A – “A Soundless Records Compilation” CD 9/33:01
A nine song compilation. Now THERE’S an idea. You’d have to have the attention span of a fly not to appreciate the captivatingly diverse slice of music here. Opener “At Least Pretend” rehashes the breathy fatalism of Azure Ray to a pleasantly familiar effect. Acomputer’s “Blanketworld” is a cross-eyed music box trying to mate with a sleeping, drunken DJ. Nate Ruth’s breezy “Heralded” makes good use of the electro-acoustic formula by emphasizing melody over gimmicks. The cleverly-titled “Mission to Bermuda” (by the peculiarly-named __.) makes terse math rock fun again, while Jonathan Heathcote’s “Sure Juror” nimbly scales walls of bass and fuzzy strings to an anti-climactic peak. Speedcore electronica rears its head on the Aphex Twin-influenced “Madman (On Psychotropic Drugs),” recalling angry video game soundtracks and ‘90s angst in one leering gaze. Millipede’s “FORGETTERMAKER” (subtle, guys) could be the foley for our hero’s escape from a dank, underground British insane asylum. Carolee employs songwriter Nate Ruth again for the oddly satisfying mad-dash of “I Heard You with Unmistakable Clarity,” probably the best song on the disc (not a wasted note in the song). Mike Dooling closes it with “Fall Off,” a clusterfuck of samples and spooky, abrasive sound effects. Great shit, although after several listens I’m still not quite sure what to make of it. John
@ www.soundlessrecords.com

V/A – “A Tribute to Captain Beefheart & His Magic Band” CD 20/71:13
Yet another swipe at the good captain, this time featuring folks from the more outré end of the musical spectrum: the lineup includes 25 Suaves, Azalia Snail, Mike Watt (who does a good enough Beefheart imitation to make you wonder why he wasn’t tapped to do vocals for the reformed Magic Band)and other insert-tweaked-music-list-here dwellers, keen on capturing the spirit (if not always the sound) of Mr. Beefheart. As always there’s the issue of omissions (everyone has their faves, but I gotta wonder: What Would Melt Banana Do?) and less-than-stellar interpretations, but it’s worth at least a listen, if not an immediate transfer of funds for its purchase. David
@ www.animalworldrecordings.com

V/A - “Advanced Calculus” 2XCD
If this is a sampling of what Pittsburgh is offering the world in the realm of music, then it must be good to be living there right now. These two discs are a compilation of tracks recorded live at WRCT on some live weekly music show they have there. Lots of math rock here from these great unknowns, I’m assuming due in large part to the influence that Don Caballero has had over the town; but there are plenty of other styles as well ranging from melodic punk to indie rock to hip hop to just weird. Some of the better known acts featured include Thee Speaking Canaries (featuring Damon Che from Don Cab), Modey Lemon, Creta Borzia, the New Alcindors, and Microwaves. Like any mix, you take the good with the bad, but I’m really quite shocked at the quality and amount of good bands coming out of this area. Additionally, it’s packaged in this beautiful gatefold case that has random math symbols pressed into the cardboard – it’s these extra touches that really add to the overall affect sometimes. Get this and get onto what Pittsburgh has going on. Jake
@ www.advcalc.com

V/A – “Against Police Injustice” CD 25/73:29
25 bands contribute released and unreleased tunes to this benefit compilation for a now-released innocent, Ahmed Nelson of New Orleans. Nelson had been falsely accused of murdering a police officer. Assembled by Leftover Crack and A-F Records, this compilation’s profits are going to help defray Nelson’s legal bills. There are a number of big political punk bands here, including Nausea, Anti Flag, Left Over Crack, F Minus, Against Me, False Prophets, Kylesa, Conflict, Born/Dead. There are unreleased studio and live songs from Segue, Daycare Swindlers, Skarp, Thought Crime, Sangre De Los Puercos, and MDC. Musically this leans towards the fast and loud side of punk, but there’s enough melody for anyone, plus a little bit of twang that pops up here and there. I’m stoked that there are unreleased songs on this; it has always bugged me when compilations are made up of only already-released material. Jesse
@ www.ahmadnelson.com

V/A – “Atticus: dragging the lake II” CD 26/76:37
Somehow, I got saddled with the unenviable task of reviewing this mammoth compilation put together by the clothing company owned by two of the Blink-182 guys, (follow-up to vol. I.) RFTC kick things off with their usual high-quality fashion sense, and there are strong songs by Hot Water Music, Sparta and Further Seems Forever, but with only a handful of unreleased tracks by the likes of Finch, Dropkick Murphys and Lagwagon this is mostly the definition of redundancy. Anthony
@ www.sideonedummy.com

V/A - "Bachelor Party" soundtrack CD 10/31:21
One of many now embarrassing decisions I made in that decade of bad decisions, the 1980’s, was to see ‘84’s cinematic, beer-induced breaking of wind from which this soundtrack derives. Surely the only two folks who might feel even more so in retrospect would be Tom Hanks - for having starred in it - and the guys in REM and the Fleshtones, for their musical contributions to same. Ironically, they happen to be the best things about this otherwise cringe-worthy (but digitally remastered!) assortment of dated trinkets. The former’s "Wind Out" was a hearty pinnacle of non-ironic rock for rock’s sake, one that they seemed to forsake after Monster in favor of cranial-rectal inversion. And the Fleshtones’ remake of their first single "American Beat" (adding Pete Zaremba’s priceless shoutouts to musical peers and heroes alike) is as unbeatable and joyous then as now, and hopefully ten years from now - when no doubt the cybersonic 5-D remastering of this will hit the bins. MLH
@ www.superfectarecordings.com

V/A - “Bad Scene, Everyone’s Fault” CD 18/62:49
Yes, it’s one of those tribute records, but don’t cringe, because this is actually good. It’s a tribute to Jawbreaker, melodic punk superstars in the ‘80s, early ‘90s. I suspect it would be easy to find bands anxious to honor Jawbreaker since they were deservedly so influential. Duvall’s slow six and a half minute version of “Busy” is certainly an interesting interpretation. The title track is performed by the Dutch powerpunkers, Travoltas, who totally make it their own. Most of the bands contribute credible covers, making for a solid collection. Mel
@ www.dyingwish.com

V/A – “Barricaded Suspects” CD 22/51:22
Reissue of the 1983 compilation on Toxic Shock (with four bonus tracks), focusing mainly on hardcore with a few more “post-punk” tracks thrown in for good measure. This was originally best known for an early (first?) vinyl appearance of Septic Death though you had appearances by the likes of Roach Motel and Suburban Mutilation as well. To be honest quite a bit of this hasn’t really stood the test of time (there’s a reason why you don’t see too many rabid collectors hunting down the works of, say, the Hundredth Monkey), but tracks from such folks as Killroy, Knockabouts, Abscess, and even the more post-punk Zimbo Chimps (better than their moniker suggests) makes me glad this is around once again. David
@ www.drstrange.com

V/A - "Beer: The Movie" CD 15/57:27
There really is a "Beer the Movie". Made around 1982, starring Jim Varney (you know the "hey Vern" guy from all of the Ernest movies), it sucked beyond belief so if you're going to get all hopped up and watch that beast, make sure you have a chaser of "Strange Brew" or something because your mind and liver will hate you in the morning if you deviate. So when this album came I was all "What? It can't be!" And it isn't. This is just a compilation of melodic yet heavy bands put out by Triple Crown Records. Stand outs, in my humble and beer soaked opinion, were Orange island, Moneen, Taking Back Sunday and The Movielife. The others were good too but those four seemed to have the most distinct grasp on the whole concept of college bros who think and feel too much but are like way angry and shit so yeah, lets play music man! And it's a good thing. There's a new genre out there that isn't quite esteemed yet but still gets enough press and young boys flogging each other and younger girls swooning at the semi-tough clean faced biddies strumming their guitars with some angst conviction. It's not my thing but hey maybe it's yours! Whittaker
@ www.triplecrownrecords.com

V/A – “Black on Black: A Tribute to Black Flag” CD 9/28:50
Black Flag was a flash of brilliance in the early L.A. hardcore scene. Originally the band excelled in the fast and furious punk of “Nervous Breakdown`” but the band developed against the wishes of its core audience to embrace an even more fucked up musical dystopia as heard on “Slip It In” and “My War.” This musical transition was pejoratively called “Black Flag: The Metal Years” in a record review of “Slip It In” at local college station KALX. Sonically, this comp leans more towards bands who identified with the later Black Flag sound: larger name bands in the heavy non-metal underground, including Dillinger Escape Plan, Converge, American Nightmare, Coalesce, The Hope Conspiracy, and Planes Mistaken For Stars. The bands cover tunes from the first seven inch through “My War”, but most of them sound like they’re distortion-laden outtakes from some mescaline-fueled Greg Ginn jam session. Unless you’re a devoted fan of one or more of these bands, there’s really no reason to pick this up. Go get “Slip It In” or “Loose Nut” instead. Jesse
@ Initial, PO Box 17131, Louisville, KY 40217

V/A – “Blisscent II” CD 15/61:10
Before I go on to tell you all the reasons that I actually really like this album, I have to let you know that there is some resentment among my music geek friends that they were added to the Blisscent mailing list without permission. And then Blisscent has the nerve to brag on their press release that their list has over 2000 members. Now that that’s out of the way, I can tell you that this is an incredibly good collection of music. Ranging from straight up shoegazer pop to spacey dream pop and some almost trip hop sounds, the tracks are cohesive, yet individual. The standout for me is The Meeting Places’ “Same Lies as Yesterday” full of overwhelming fuzzy guitars. If you often pine for the world of early 90s shoegaze, you’re gonna dig this disc. Sharon
@ www.blisscentrecords.com

V/A – Bored Teenagers volume 3” CD 16/51:17
This is the third in a series featuring relatively obscure British punk bands, both released and unreleased, from back in the day. The first volume was almost all killer and no filler, but the second and third have both been more uneven. Herein the best tracks are the Perfectors’ “Mysterons,” both Injectors and Xpress songs, Clay Fav’s “Air Lakeland,” and – my personal fave – the two songs by Quality Drivel. This musical genre is so cool that even the lesser cuts are enjoyable. Can’t wait for volume 4. Jeff
@ www.detour-records.co.uk

V/A – “Bosse Sound” CD 30/73:59
Like the subtitle says, this is a collection of Swedish punk, hardcore, and new wave from 1979-1986, focusing on some of the more obscure outfits from there. Worth noting that only a few tracks here would seem to earn the “new wave” tag, and said tracks would decidedly NOT have been played in the cheesier clubs back in the day. While there are a few clunkers and lesser tracks in the bunch, most of these tracks range from solid to very good indeed, and puts at least a few similar US-oriented compilations to shame (of course it’s all in which material you use). Perhaps not up to (early) KBD standards, and could have used more hardcore (which is what this country used to be known for after all) but overall worth picking up. David
@ www.dionysusrecords.com

V/A –“Brand New Rage: A Tribute to U.K. Subs” CD 27/65:51
Buncha streetpunk bands pay tribute to one of the godfathers of the genre, the UK Subs, with quite a bit more emphasis being placed (not surprisingly) on the vintage earlier material (well which would you rather listen to, “Brand New Age” or “Japan Today?”. Like most tributes this contains the Good (Squad 21)), the Bad (Red Letter Day, Sonic Barrels), and a lot of the Mediocre (just about everything else). I’m definitely not sorry to see a tribute to Charles and company (especially if he makes some bucks off this), but it falls prey to that old-tribute dilemma of the performances neither bettering nor being significantly different from the originals. David
@ www.dssrecords.com

V/A - "Brandtson/Camber/Seven Storey" CD 6/21:36
This CD contains a Brandston song, 3 Camber songs and 2 by Seven Storey. This is new emo power post punk and it's not great. Camber has a little more edge than Brandston and Seven Storey has a little more than Camber. I'd go so far as to call the Seven Storey songs pretty darn good. But this, as a whole, is not as good a collection of bands as either of the first two Deep Elm CDs in their Split Series. The cool clear and silver CD, though, is...well...cool. Sharon
@ www.deepelm.com

V/A - "Carnivals, Cotton Candy and You: An Orange Sky Records Compilation” CD11/39:50
An upbeat indie sampler featuring bands influenced almost exclusively by '60s and '70s pop rock. No, it's not another Elephant Six-fest (although that wouldn't be entirely unpleasant); these bands actually sound quite hi-fi and professional. Still, there are only so many Stones/Kinks/Beatles melodies to go around. The Sights' "That's What You Want" sports a haircut part Doo Wop and part "Substitute"-era Who, while The Electromagnetic toss female harmony vocals into the sunny "Stargazer`" coming off like The Jesus and Mary Chain humping a statue of George Hubley. Cleveland's The Volta Sound, (Volta Do Mar...The Mars Volta. Aren't two bands enough?) almost kill the otherwise buoyant "Hey Babe" with insipid lyrics, but not quite. Florida's noisy, Beach Boys-addled Honeyrider drop the generic but nicely textured "Summer's Almost Gone" into a flickering hive of electric guitars. The Mojo Filter couldn't be more earnest on the Bachman-Turner Overdrive strut "Darlings of the Underground`" which goes on two minutes longer than it should. The Witch Hazel Sound offer the highly-British game show outro "Music Becomes Vibration`" a slice of limp-wristed fuzz with sexy horns, excellent verse melodies and zero body hair. Portland's The Out Crowd sound the most convincingly retro on "C’mon Children`" wailing about coke and backstages other tired "cool" things. Moroccan's "Soulbot" is an accomplished, jagged jam containing about five words and three chords, but it works beautifully. The Alphabet's "They Had No Faces" strikes a psychedelic pose, shamelessly and successfully ripping off late-'60s Beatles. New Planet Trampoline's "Phantom Picture Taker" is a crispier, crunchier cousin of garage rock with awkward but clean rhythms. The Terrapin Gun's "Postcards from L.A.`" an exquisitely recorded blur of guitars, is full of more insipid, feel-good lyrics. Overall, a solid comp with lots of variety, but hardly any innovation. John
@ www.dionysusrecords.com

V/A – “ClePunk Volume 1” CD 28/66:14
A thorough sampling of Ohio bands that crams too many songs on this disc. It covers the waterfront with punk-a-billy (Hellvis), ska (Cypher), speed-punk (AFO) and noisecore (Dexter’s Chumley Attack). The production has a mostly sloppy, old skool flava . Exposing so many unknowns to the light of day is a good cause. Anthony
@ www.smogveil.com

V/A – “Club Dread” soundtrack CD 15/54:41
Soundtrack for a film that was in the theaters for perhaps a week or two before disappearing into the DVD bins. Keeping with the flick’s Caribbean motif the soundtrack focuses on reggae/ska acts, both Trojan classics and modern day descendents (the only “new” track is a Felix da Housecat remix of Yellowman’s “Party”). There are a few weak tracks, but overall it’s not a bad collection. Probably worth picking up if you’re a reggae/ska fan and find this while scrounging around in your local soundtrack clearance bin. David
@ www.sanctuaryrecordsgroup.com

V/A – “Cold Mountain” soundtrack CD 19/62:59
Not so much a demographic-based cash-in soundtrack as a product of the post-O Brother Where Art Thou/Buena Vista Social Club era, complete with a T-Bone Burnett production credit. Mainly an update on “older-school” Appalachian-style country that probably predates the likes of Hank Williams - the kind they were probably strumming in backwoods areas during the time the flick took place (the Civil War) - though these are more stylized “contemporary” takes on that sound than anything rescued from old scratchy 78s. Yeah you got Jack White from da Stripes here, but you also get the truly lovely vocals of Alison Krauss as well as the likes of Cassie Franklin, Tim Eriksen, and the Reeltime Travelers. Even White-bashers will have to admit that Jack is surprisingly effective on his tracks, demonstrating another facet of his musical personality. There are also some more traditional soundtrack pieces that fit in pretty well with the rest of the disc. Even if you can argue about the authenticity of the tunes (a pretty pointless argument when you consider we’re talking about a big budget, Nicole Kidman-starring, Oscar-bound flick) there’s no denying how gorgeous the music here is. David
@ www.columbiarecords.com

V/A – “Come On In To My World: Fuzz, Flaykes, & Shakes Vol. 6” CD
Tony the Tyger offers up a sixth collection of 60s tuneage, specializing in more slow-to-medium-paced psych-garage numbers (with more than a few wistful numbers) than garage raveups. Props this time around go to Randy & the Rest, Those Guys, and Skeptics. A fairly solid compilation, though if you only had enough money to choose between the two, I’d recommend you go for volume #7 (also reviewed this issue) instead.
@ www.dionysusrecords.com

V/A – “Complete Meteor Rockabilly & Hillbilly Recordings” 2XCD 42/105:50
These CDs contain what is supposed to be the complete works of the Meteor label, best known for releasing some pretty sought-after rockabilly platters in its day. The title is definitely truth in advertising, since dat hillbilly music definitely takes up most of the first CD, with rockabilly (most of which sounds more like a natural evolution from said hillbilly sounds) and some surprisingly more “pop”-oriented tuneage (not quite the label’s strong suit) taking up most of the rest. Not surprisingly the rockabilly will be more of an attraction, featuring some now-rare (and a few previously unreleased) sides from the likes of Steve Carl and Charlie Feathers that had a definite impact on the likes of folks with names like Ivy and Lux. Booklet comes jam-packed with info on the label’s acts as well. Like most “complete” collections this is more for the collector/fanatic than the “casual fan” (of course one can argue that “casual rockabilly fan” is a contradiction in terms), but if you feel you qualify for the former then dig on in. David
@ www.acerecords.co.uk

V/A - "Compulation Vol. 1 - Songs From North Carolina" CD 21/66:31
This is the kind of comp I like; one that highlights bands that you aren't familiar with, doesn't have some cockamamie theme, and has a pretty wide variety of styles. Obviously, all of these bands are from the hotbed of guitar rock in North Carolina, where Superchunk rules the roost, and several of the bands on here seem to take their cues from them. The most notable band is Mac McCaughan's side project Portastatic, but leadoff band the Rosebuds does a nice indie rock turn, Jett Rink uses plenty of keyboard to drive the melody and rhythm in a new wave stop-start Devo style, Schooner turns in a nice Elephant 6 styled indie pop song with plenty of fuzz guitar, and the Sleepies brand of melodic pop shows off their 60's dream pop influences. There are also a number of more experimental bands that don't rely on the guitar to drive their musical point across. Of course, depending on your tastes, that might mean you'll be skipping over tracks on this, but it does show the diversity of the music scene in North Carolina and will open you up to some bands you aren't familiar with. One complaint - NO LINER NOTES?!? If the point of this thing is to expose a scene to the world at large, how about putting some contact information in a booklet? Maybe it's because this is a review copy, but I sure would have liked to have seen something; even some links to the bands somewhere. And you call yourselves a "world empire"... Steve
@ www.poxworldempire.com

V/A – “Crickets and Fireflies” CD 4/70:50
Part two of Music Fellowship’s Tryyptych series, this time featuring Kinski, Paik, and Surface of Eceon. Kinski starts off in a contemplative mood but then ends up working a very good (and loud) space (with and without the “y” at the end) rock groove that draws you in. Paik end up being a pleasant surprise, throwing up majestic waves of sound that many a modern day post-shoegazer band should be taking notes from. Surface of Eceon aren’t as successful here as on their own release (this sounds like – and most likely is – an outtake from their own CD) but they do provide some nice blissout musick (even if they could have edited down their almost 30-minute track somewhat). One of my faves of the issue. David
@ www.musicfellowship.com

V/A – “Dancing Machine: Erase Errata Remix Record” CD 4/17:53
Yep, Erase Errata gets be used as source material for the remixing/remodeling skills of Matmos, Adult, Kid 606, and Kevin Blechdom. Approaches range from subtle “traditional” remixing (i.e. you can still recognize the original song) to outright deconstruction. Each remixer ends up stamping their own personality upon the EE gang (chances are you’d be able to tell who remixed a particular track in a blind taste test). While some of this would cause contortions on your local dance floor (spin KB’s selection at your next rave and watch the riot begin), this release does both remixers and remixees proud. If the latest Aphex-Twin wannabe remixer got you done, pick this up and see how “remixing” should be done! David
@ www.troublemanunlimited.com

V/A – “Dangerously Low: The Bootleg Tapes” CD 11/42:27
To be honest, I wasn’t expecting much from this mainstream compilation. After all, there’s a cut by Moby on it. As it turns out, there are some decent alt cuts on here, including “Pretty Girl (The Way)” by Sugarcult (despite the bad keyboards), “The Red” by Chevelle, and somewhat “For the Moment” by Gob and Theory of a Deadman’s “Nothing Could Come Between Us.” The rest is passable, what the major companies perceive we’d like. I repeat: Moby. Sadly, for some, this is what they want to hear. Can we say “Baaaaaaaa”? RBF
@ no address

V/A – “Datawaslost: Beep Click Strum Sing” CD 17/62:47
I loved “Golden Street” and I will listen to anything that The Minders put out. So I was delighted when I saw them buried in this compilation which focuses on blurring the lines between genres through home recording – it’s a great premise. The Minders’ “Pearl” sounds intensely low-fi, almost bare-bones with tiny electric whirring in the background. It’s a change in sound for them, but I’m not sure it’s a strong example of a blurring of genres. I didn’t hear really anything different in Looper’s sound. Ultimately, the selections on Datawaslost are uninspiring as “genre-blurring”. The rock bands incorporated more electronic music, while the e-beat groups threw some guitars over the sampling. Pam
@ www.datawaslost.net

V/A – “Death Before Disco” 15/54:14
The title’s probably meant to be a tad on the ironic side, since most of the folks contained within – even garage rockers like the now-late Pattern – would manage to get your feet (or at least some other body parts) moving, if not induce you to wear polyester. To give you an idea as to what to expect on here, the better tunes are contributed by the likes of Adult, Gogogo Airheart, Vanishing, Dance Disaster Movement, and Numbers. It’s worth noting that at least half of this has been previously released (including most of the better tracks), so this might not be the one to top your wish list. Still, this turns out to have a better hit/miss ratio than certain similar compilations out there and if nothing else is a good sampler (mix-tape?) of what’s happening in the post-punk sector of that nebulous realm called “indieland”. I don’t have to say this has jack to do with the Belgian hardcore band of the same name, do I? David
@ www.princehouserecords.com

V/A - “Death by Salt: A Slug Magazine Compilation” 3 CDs 59/237:19
Yes, the information up there is correct: this is a 3 CD compilation featuring 59 songs…with one song per band that means that 59 bands were involved in the process. Not only that, but they are all bands from Salt Lake City; who knew there was such a big scene there? I certainly didn’t, so color me impressed, even if I didn’t care for most of the groups on these discs. I’m not going to bother with the negatives of this release though, as they are too numerous to list and I’m not in the business of trying to cut down up-an-comers no matter how terrible they are; instead, I’ll list the handful of bands that I thought did a pretty good job, and who I wouldn’t mind hearing further material by. So “the good stuff” is as follows: Chinese Stars (not the Arab on Radar off shoot band, but rather a punk band), Redd Tape (indie pop), Le Force (decent metal), Books About UFO’s, Erosion, Coyote Hoods (spacy alt-country), Tolchock Trio, the Mental Midgets (think Minor Threat-style hardcore), and Nurse Sherri. I think it probably goes without saying that there is probably something for everyone on these three discs of music, but good luck wading through it all, it’s no easy task. Jake
@ www.slugmag.com

V/A – "Decade: Ten Years of Fierce Panda" CD 18/75:17
Like any compilation, this one has its hits and misses; but given this roster’s line-up of heavy hitters, it’s obvious that the good far outweighs the bad. These heavy hitters include Bright Eyes, Polyphonic Spree, Placebo, Coldplay (exclusive track), the Clientele (amazing song), KaitO, Six by Seven, and Death Cab for Cutie. Of special note are the Bluetones and Hundred Reasons, whom I’d never heard of before but both brought forth good tracks (and the Hundred Reasons track is an exclusive one). Much of this stuff can be found elsewhere, however…but all in all, a decent mix showcasing a label that has obviously had a great ear at spotting bands that were going to blow up one day. Jake
@ www.fiercepanda.co.uk

V/A - "Deep Elm Unreleased No. 2" CD 10/34:51
The title pretty much says it all here: it contains unreleased tracks from the Deep Elm roster. Like any other compilation, some is good and some is bad; the White Octave, Cross My Heart and the Appleseed Cast all deliver quality songs, which pretty much falls in line with the rest of their output. Race Car Riot and Slowride have decent tracks, and pretty much everything else is very ‘whatever’. If you’re a big fan of any of the bands featured here, it’s probably worth picking up. Jake
@ www.deepelm.com

V/A – “Delta Experimental Blues Project Vol. 3” CD 12/46:50
Right on the heels of the resurgent interest in Delta blues comes this fantastic compilation of some of the rawest, unrehearsed, Johnny-on-the-spot tracks that have been laid down anytime recently. Featuring the lesser-knowns of the Memphis area blues vanguard such as Furry Lewis, Sleepy John Estes, Johnny Woods, Mose Vinson, Alec Teal, and Otha Turner and the Mississippi Hill Country Drum and Fife Band, this disc is simply a must have for aficionados of blues in the rough. Produced by Jim Dickinson, who showed his dedication to authenticity of the project by agreeing to record one of the artists in his carport. I don’t know if this is available on vinyl, but if it is that would be the ideal way to listen. Xtian
@ www.birdmanrecords.com

V/A – “Delta Masters” CD 16/64:35
Yep it’s a tribute to the Delta Bluespeople of yore, featuring the more outré of the bluespunk/avantblues outfits out there including Heroine Shrieks, White Hassle, & Immortal Lee County Killers. Even without the grotesque cover art and subtitle “16 strange bands put their twist on classic blues) it seems that at times it’s like the compilers were self-consciously trying to be “weird for weird’s sake”, not quite understanding the MOs of the bands in question (who aren’t soon at their strongest here), much less the artists they’re covering. Maybe it would have helped if they stretched out a bit and included the likes of the Lowdown, Ol’ Time Relijun, or even Billy Childish (no stranger to the blues himself) to name just three off the bat. David
@ www.dogfingers.com

V/A - "Dim Mak Sampler 2003 Sampler: I'm Like a Stepping Razor..." CD 16/50:32
Howlingly effective and effusive selection of cuts showcasing the swampy, scummy, nouveau-garage company's lineup. Especially taken with the muffled but power-packed live cut from the Gossip, as well as the overdue and reverent stomping by the Kills through Beefheart's "Dropout Boogie". Cuts by The Soledad Brothers, Pretty Girls Make Graves and the Von Bondies follow that greasy cab, but there's really not a bad cut in the bunch - even local noisemakers From Monument To Masses' mangling of the Peter Tosh song that gives this disc its name is a hoot and a half. MLH
@ www.dimmak.com

V/A – “Dirtnap Across the Northwest” CD 31/74:13
Not a label sampler as the title might lead you to believe, but rather an attempt by Dirtnap to create a location-specific compilation in the tradition (and hopefully the quality) of such seminal releases as “Yes L.A.”, “Flex Your Head”, and “Turn It Around” (okay so I added that last one). All the tracks here are previously unreleased, with a healthy share of tracks from bands “borrowed” from other labels or making their recorded debut. A variety of styles can similarly be found here, from the trademark Dirtnap punk/wave sound to pure punk to punkish rock and points in-between. There are too many highlights to list them all, but with folks like Epoxies (doing a Professionals cover, yep the same one you heard in “Ladies and Gentlemen, The Fabulous Stains”), Exploding Hearts, and the Triggers among the lineup you should know enough to expect goodness. David
@ www.dirtnaprecs.com

V/A – “Don’t Name It” CD 11/53:35
Described as a “St. Louis-based experimental rock compilation released by the Everywhen artist collective“ (warning bells should ring when someone refers to their scene as a “collective”), this release features experimental musings, and post-avant punk by folks who’d probably like to see themselves rating an article in Wire, spoken in the same breath as the Melvins, or opening up for John Zorn’s latest project one day. Despite a few decent tracks though this is pretty much wank, trodding down well-traven roads but making a wrong turn somewhere and hitting a dead end. Like I said, a few tracks are kinda okay, but that’s hardly a glowing recommendation, is it? David
@ Everywhen, blackstooges@hotmail.com

V/A - “Doo Wop 45’s On CD” volumes 9-12
The PBS showcases of ‘50s and ‘60s artists performing largely forgotten classics has fueled the market for doo wop reissues. In my humble opinion this series is the best of the bunch. If you buy all 12 volumes you’ve suddenly got a 300 song doo wop collection. This series is also available as 3 volumes of “The Encyclopedia of Doo Wop”, box sets with 4 CDs each and a book. If you’re somewhat interested in the genre start with the first 4, which are the strongest. If you’re a hardcore doo wop fan pick them all up, because there are fine obscure gems throughout. Mel
@ www.oldies.com

V/A - “Down and Out with the Dolls” CD 12/34:59
This is the official soundtrack to the upcoming flick “Down and Out with the Dolls”, a hopefully great film about four girls trying to make it as a rock band. There’s even a role for ol’ Lemmy from Motorhead in this one. Nice. Anyway, the bands here are all post “riot grrl” sounding and overall are not bad. The band itself, The Paper Dolls, are pretty good, in a fuzzed out garage kind of way. Other standouts include Fonda and The Bangs, all providing the same kind of crunchy, grungy styles one would expect from a group of ladies donning ripped thrift store dresses, platforms and snarls to ensnare the nearest gullible rocker guy and throngs of kindercore dykes. A man directs the film so I hope he doesn’t screw it up too much. Otherwise, I got into the soundtrack as a whole. Whittaker
@ www.dolls-themovie.com

V/A - "Dreaming the Perfect Pop" CD 21/61:06
Indie pop bands at their best populate this disc, with songs ranging from simple acoustic numbers to strong power poppers to more electronic based tunes. My personal faves are the bands that rely on simple guitar and pop melodies like Astropop 3 (handclap alert!), the Mendoza Line, and Marykate O'Neil (with help from Jill Sobule), or power pop hooks and bigger guitars like the Mockers or Kleenex Girl Wonder. There are a couple of real gems here, I particularly like the Essex Green's Byrds' guitar jangle mixed with male/female vocals and the Maybellines frenzied Shop Assistants guitar fuzz pop. There are a couple of bands that get a little too electro-experimental for me and lose the melody in new wave goofiness, but overall this is a great look at the indie pop scene today. Steve
@ www.plantingseedsrecords.com

V/A - "Dropping Food On Their Heads Is Not Enough" CD 33/71:45
Worthwhile compilation that benefits several Afghan women’s organizations. Mostly of the politically minded punk variety as one might imagine, with choice moments courtesy of Chumbawumba, locals Jack Killed Kill who contribute a pissed-off thrash through "You Don’t Own Me", a few traditional Afghan pieces given an inoffensive dance-remix makeover…even Jello Biafra makes sense in his spoken word excerpt. Something for everyone, really, and a worthy, timely cause to boot. Dig, and dig deep. MLH
@ www.gcrecords.com/benefit.html

V/A - “Every Word: A Tribute to Let’s Active” CD 20/74:45
It’s difficult for me to get too excited about tribute albums. They’re usually like a bad blind date. You don’t really know what to expect and it unfortunately goes on for too long. This one is no different. With an overwhelming 20 tracks and some pretty obscure bands this album does little justice to Mitch Easter, the seminal producer of early 80’s REM, and leader of Let’s Active, a great Southern power pop band. Exceptions are The Crowd Scene’s take on the great “Writing the Book of Last Pages” and Bill Lloyd’s opener “Every Word Means No”. Grab the originals. Matthew
@ www.laughingoutlaw.com.au

V/A - "Fat Music Volume VI - Uncontrollable Fatulence" CD 18/46:47
Gotta love the label sampler. Well, OK, love is a strong word, but I don't mind them as much as some people do. At least they give me a chance to delve into a label's catalog a bit, which is particularly useful if I loke a few of the band on the label already. Fat is one of those labels, and there are nine previously unreleased tracks here. Everyone knows what Fat is about, and that's punk with a decidedly pop bent. But they've also got a couple of heavy hitters among the politically charged, including Propaghandi and Dillinger 4. Bands included with new tunes are The Lawrence Arms, Anti-Flag, Rise Against, Swingin' Utters, NOFX, and Me First and the Gimme Gimmes, who do the Prince penned "Nothing Compares 2 U". Hey, they're cheap, they're useful in occasionally discovering a band, and beat most tribute compilations. Steve
@ www.fatwreck.com

V/A – “Fort Worth Teen Scene volume 1” CD 24/56:13
What non-Texan could’ve imagined that there were so many boss mid-‘60’s garage bands emanating from one Texas city that Norton could manage to release three separate volumes of them? Although I can’t say whether the other two volumes are equally good, since the label only sent volume 1, this one can fairly be said to kick ass. There are quite a few primitive covers, as one might expect, but some of ‘em are stunningly good (like the Tracers’ version of the Stones’ “She Said Yeah”). Better still are the punked-out originals, such as Larry and the Blue Notes’ “Night of the Sadist” and “In and Out,” the Jinx’s “Come On Up,” the Wyld’s Stones-influenced “Fly By Nighter,” and – best of all – the Rising Suns’ unreleased shredder “I’m Blue.” There are also some fine atmospheric, moody numbers like Five of a Kind’s “I Don’t Wanna Find Another Girl” and the Bards’ (not to be confused with the Northwest band with the same name) “Thanks a Lot Baby.” A long overdue release of the products of an amazing local garage scene. Jeff
@ www.nortonrecords.com

V/A – “Four Old Toxic Shock 7 inches ’83-‘84” CD 20/48:57
Dr. Strange’s raiding of the Toxic Shock vaults continue with this release compiling the “Noise From Nowhere” compilation as well as 7 inches from Peace Corpse, Red Tide, and Massacre Guys, all dating from the early/mid 80s. The fairly varied “Noise” compilation – featuring tracks from Kent State, Moslem Birth, Modern Industry, and Manson Youth – holds up better than I remember. Peace Corpse gives up some material teetering on the punk/hardcore/post-punk divide; pretty good. Red Tide’s material has a rockier feel to it (no surprise that one of them later went off to DOA) and really hasn’t gotten better with age. Massacre Guys is solid period hardcore. Red Tide aside, I dare say this is a keeper. David
@ www.drstrange.com

V/A – “Four-Way Split” LP 23/42:15
You get Jonny X & the Groadies, Corpse Fucks Corpse (definitely the moniker of the issue), Gift to Goats, & Get Get Go cranking out 23 pieces of noisy, spastic, damaged sounds, some “experimentally” touched, some just touched period . Tweaked all around and all the better for it; Jonny X in particular put a smile on my face. If you’re tired of the same old ‘core and looking for some new thrills, check this out. David
@ www.omnibus.com

V/A – “Garage Beat ’66" volume 1-3 CD
Most ‘60’s compilations fall into one of two categories – 1) collections of relatively well-known “hits” reissued for nostalgia’s sake, or 2) collections of insanely obscure songs reissued for the benefit of obsessive collectors and aficionados. These three volumes of “Garage Beat ‘66” fall somewhere between these two poles, albeit closer to the latter in that they feature lots of ‘60’s garage tracks that are reasonably well-known to connoisseurs of the genre but practically unknown to the general public. Yet there are still good reasons to reissue them again, ‘cause this time they are apparently taken from the original master tapes instead of from scratchy, potholed 45s (although several have already appeared on single band releases put out by Sundazed). In any case, volume 1 is the punkiest of the lot, with killer snot-nosed blasts by the Sparkles (including the original of “No Friend of Mine”), Fever Tree (an absolutely amazing early side with one of the best ever fuzzed-out leads), the “In,” Dog, the Olivers, and the Eyes (mind-boggling moody punk), along with fetching psych punk from the Odyssey and the Fe-Fi-Four + 2, etc. Volume 2 is mainly just plain garage, by which I mean that it isn’t generally as belligerent and fuzz-laced, but it does contain stellar tracks by the Menn, the Electras (psych punk), the Sonics, the Third Bardo (more psych punk), the Spiders (pre-Alice Cooper), the Go-Betweens (moody), the Five Americans (surprisingly rockin!), the Litter (a great Small Faces cover), and We the People. Volume 3 is still more psych-oriented, and it showcases some fab songs by the Mourning Reign, the Answer, the Brogues (featuring some pre-Quicksilver Messengers), and Living Children. All in all these are really excellent comps with a great sound, and with any luck Sundazed will add several more volumes to the series. Jeff
@ www.sundazed.com

V/A - "Garage Rock Classics" CD 28/70:58
This is the finest single disc set of '60s garage-punk yet. The choice of tunes is exceptional, helped by a great mix of hits with lesser known nuggets. The Turtles contribute the Warren Zevon penned "Outside Chance", Thee Sixpence offer a rockin take on "Fortune Teller", "Mr Moon" by The Coachmen is a way cool tune I hadn't heard before, as is "In Relation" by Strawberry SAC. The '60s bands of Todd Rundgren, Billy Gibbons and Ted Nugent are all represented along with essential tracks from Paul Revere and the Raiders, The Nightcrawlers, Five Americans and more. The mastering here is outstanding, which isn't always the case on compilations. Mel
@ www.varesevintage.com

V/A - “Gimme Skelter” CD 22/75:04
Buddyhead has been stirring the shit pot online for a few years now, letting everyone know exactly what is and what isn’t good music as far as they were concerned. Now, you can aurally witness what was only previously written about: a mix CD by Buddyhead documenting many of the bands they are often championing on their website. Honestly, there isn’t a bad song on the entire disc, but that’s not wholly unexpected on a disc full of so many already popular and well-liked bands, such as: Wire, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Primal Scream, Dead Meadow, Le Tigre, Weezer, Mudhoney, Cave In, and many more. It’s probably worth picking up for the rare and unreleased Weezer song from the “Pinkerton” era alone, assuming you like Weezer that is. As much as you want to hate those little shits behind Buddyhead sometimes, you can’t accuse them of having bad taste in music. Jake
@ www.buddyhead.com

V/A - “Global Indie Clubpop - Par Avion" CD 12/43:27
A compilation CD of pop music from around the world, played at the Club Par Avion. Artists on the CD range from Spain to Hong Kong, Athens, GA to London UK. It's an interesting mix, including Stereo Total (more clubbed up than I care for), and a track from the desktop-and-vocals group that I'd like to hear more of, I am the World Trade Center. Of course, like most club music, it's best listened to in a dark room when you're slightly buzzed and not embarrassed to be dancing. Pam
@ www.eeniemeenie.com

V/A – “Grease” soundtrack 2XCD 36/102:52
Ah yes, remember when “Grease” was the word? The original double-album soundtrack (which comprises the first CD), you probably need no introduction to (some guilty pleasures, though you’ll be reminded that you played some tracks far more than others). The second disc (which is what you’d be shelling out the extra bucks for) isn’t really all that stellar: it includes some decent related rarities (such as the instro b-side to the original single) and the Megamix is better than I remember, but the other remixes aren’t so hot and the inclusion of 4-5 new “singalong” (they dare not use the word “Karaoke”) versions frankly stinks of padding. I’ll be keeping my copy but you’d probably have to be of a certain generation or two to really get into this, and if you’re not fussy about format then you might be better off scouring the garage sales for the original vinyl than pay extra $ for a very unessential second disc. David
@ www.universalchronicles.com

V/A – “Guitar Ace: Link Wray Tribute” CD 24/71:24
It was inevitable: Link Wray gets his own tribute album with folks like Fifty Foot Combo, Gore Gore Girls, Space Cossacks, and some group by the name of the Fleshtones paying tribute to one of the godfathers of the guitar instro. Some groups are pretty faithful to the original tune while others make sure to add their own stamp to his tunes (worth noting that both “hits” and obscurities manage to get the treatment). While a couple of these are a tad too revisionist, most of these folks pay proper respect to the Wray man. David
@ www.musickrecords.com

V/A - “He Was Fab: A Loving Tribute to George Harrison” CD 19/68:04
Somehow, somebody, somewhere thought this was a good idea. But the world does not need a Swedish punk band’s interpretation of “While My Guitar Gently Weeps.” Nor does it need an annoyingly peppy version of “When We Was Fab.” In fact, it doesn’t need any of the 19 tracks on this eminently forgettable and unnecessary record. I plan to “misplace” my copy before anyone discovers it in my record collection. Kevin
@ www.jealousy-records.com

V/A - “He’s a Rebel: The Gene Pitney Story Retold” CD 26/79:15
Like most various artists compilations, “He’s a Rebel” is a mixed bag. The bands assembled range from winsome indiepop (The Waking Hours take on “I Must Be Seeing Things” is fantastic) to subpar wedding rock. But what the comp has in its tremendous favor is its relatively faithful interpretation of the songs. While the work of some artists lends itself to more elastic interpretation, Pitney’s songs are best played straight. The artists maintain the warm melodies and simple instrumentation of the original compositions, and the material shines as a result. At over two dozen songs, “He’s a Rebel” is entirely too long to be taken all at once (and the middling quality of some of the renditions practically insures non-linear listening). It’s by no means revelatory, but “He’s a Rebel” is an adequate, respectful tribute to the man and his music. J Edward
@ To M’Lou Music, 66 North Kinderkmack Rd., Montvale, NJ 07645

V/A - "Hearts Bleed Blue: Deep Elm Sampler No. 4" CD 19/17:24
Now that Deep Elm has established itself as one of the more kick-ass labels out there, it's time to break to a wider audience. But you have to ask the question: is there a wider audience for a label that deals exclusively in bands that vaguely (but skillfully) ape other currently popular indie and post-punk acts? This sampler is tinted with shades of old Fugazi, Tortoise, Promise Ring, Sonic Youth and Modest Mouse. Only a few bands (Red Animal War, Lewis, Logh) really make their own mark. To be completely fair, there's quite a bit of variety on this, Deep Elm's fourth comp. Lots of Radiodhead-esque ballads, indie pop anthems, and shiny melodic surprises. Double and triple-tracked vocals seem to be as popular as the subtle Weezer and Nirvana influences. Blatant emo crap is kept to minimum. But overall you feel like you're getting an old product wrapped in a new package. If you like comfort food, you'll like this. John
@ www.deepelm.com

V/A – “Here Come the Bulletholes” CD-R 18/65:42
Originally conceived of as yet another label sampler, the compilers generously decided to expand their range and incorporate the works of some of their other fellow countryfolk as well. You get a diverse sampling of iNdie soundZ here, from fab swirlpop and melodic rock, to the beyond-categorization work of Chris Knox (the only “name” here) though as par for course for compilations you do get your fair share of misbegotten missteps here as well. Probably not a good idea to compare it to the Flying Nun/Xpressway waxings of yore, but pretty solid overall. David
@ www.powertoolrecords.co.nz

V/A – “Hoags: A Philadelphia Compilation” 2XCD/117:13
This is an encyclopedic comp of underground Philly bands that is better than might be assumed. Disc one includes a fairly wide swath of rock debris, the atonal pop rock of !Franklin, the deliberate post-punk of Pennsylvania Muzzle Loader, the quirky college rock of Academy, the power metal of Wastoid, the fucked-up noise of An Albatross and the exceptional punk of Excelsior, probably the only nationally recognized band here. Disc two is quite a bit more eclectic with the synth-rap of Plastik Little, the new wave of King God, the no wave of Coyote, the jangle of A.B.R., the synth-reggae of Version Sound and the piano blues of Mr. Unloved. The local scene in Philly must be pretty damn heady, if this set is any indication. Too much for one sitting, but a damn fine intro for the curious. Anthony
@ www.hotdogcityrecords.com

V/A - "Home on the Range vol. 2" CD 13/50:24
Like most compilations, this has both good and bad music on it, but what I find particularly intriguing is that it’s from Montana. Now I’ve been to Montana, and while it’s quite beautiful, I’ve never been to such a sparsely populated and desolate place in all my life. I can’t even begin to imagine what it must take to put a band together, considering your closest neighbor probably lives 20 miles away (I know there are few cities, but I’m trying to make a point here, so get off my back). Nonetheless, they’ve produced a comp that covers a wide reaching expanse of genres. Some standouts include 1090 Club (interesting, off-kilter pop), Loopian Zu (no-wave jazzy stuff), END ever (made me think of old Pantera), and Spurge (which made me think of Modest Mouse for some reason). It should also be noted that there is a band named Weinis, obviously the blending of wiener and penis, and they perform a song called ‘chode’...pure brilliance I dare say. Jake
@ www.eleven11.net

V/A - "Hometeambeatsrivalsbyten: Songs From Sacto, vol.1" CD 16/46:23
In which a foursome of Sacramento pop artisans get together, pass around the mike and scare a few ditties amongst themselves. Quite a sparse and subdued affair, which only adds to the homey, informal musical vibe created. Heaviest of hitters in the bunch are Anton Barbeau, with tunefully compact confections like "Beautiful Human" and a decidedly Bolanesque warble (extra brownie points for the Julian Cope "Droolian" t-shirt he sports on the back cover). Second is Kevin Seconds, who I only knew and just barely from his days as frontman of ‘80s hardcore combo Seven Seconds ; nowadays he's flying a most colorful powerpop flag, and if this is an indication of what I've been missing then clearly I have some catch-up to do. The remaining lineup, Josh Matranga and Kepi of Groovie Ghoulies fame, also have their moments (though to be honest the latter tends towards the drippy and folky), thus making for a perfectly pleasant collection. MLH
@ www.poprockit.com

V/A - “How to Deal” Soundtrack CD 13/39:00
If cheese was sold in compact disc form, this would be it. The cover of this teen wet dream features the ultra-hot Mandy Moore and some nameless hunk of the month, and while I still found a way to go into this one with an open mind, Skye Sweetnam’s I-desperately-wish-I-was-Avril Lavigne opener “Billy S.” makes it quickly clear what kind of schlockfest the listener is in for. While a Flaming Lips appearance leads to some hope for a pleasant surprise, toss-off tracks by the overrated Donnas and freshly minted pop star Liz Phair (who is downright embarrassing at this point), as well as a painful cover of Cat Stevens’ “Wild World” by Beth Orton (the original appears here too) confirm that this one’s for 15-year-old girls only. Still not convinced? John Mayer’s on this one, folks. Case closed. Ryan
@ Capitol Records

V/A - "How's My Driving" CD 16/38:22
A bunch of songs about driving, skating, and a few about other subjects as well. Most of this is straightforward skate punk material, done at a breakneck pace and raw, with a couple of throw you for a loop tracks including the always great Odd Numbers. You get tracks by The Forgotten, The Resistoleros, Clay Wheels, and a previously unreleased Fang track, among others. Great cover art too, in the style of those old Weirdos and Odd Rods stickers that were around when I was a kid. Great for blowing the big boomin' hip hop cars off the road, for sure. Steve
@ www.supersm.com

V/A – “I’m Walkin’ Babe: Northwest Battle of the Bands Volume Three” CD 25/61:29
Third in the series examining the sounds that emanated from garages all over the Northwest during the 60s. Contains more than its fair share of stompers, as well as high-quality “wistful” tunes and some very fine instros, from the likes of the Unusuals, the Rockin’ Souls (who kick out a fine garage instro), the Bumps (nice Dylan cover) and, of course, the Sonics. Not every track shines like a diamond, but overall this is one of the better of the recent 60s garage compilations out there. David
@ www.sundazed.com

V/A – “Immaculate Deception” CD12/44:58
A Madonna tribute record is so rife with potential hazards it renders the whole thing highly questionable. There’s also the obverse of that argument that suggests that’s reason enough to damn the torpedoes. This is a homegrown project originated by a group of musicians from Upland, CA. called Independents Anonymous, and some of them should stay that way. Included are the obvious “hits”, although “Lucky Star” is strangely absent. Drag kick off with an adequate “Burnin’ Up” and Dominque Davalos’ vocals are almost riot grrl raucous, but the Supersuckers did the definitive take years ago and all this did was make me pine for that one. A ska version of “Material Girl” by Toast, and a power rock reading of “Frozen” by Doom Kounty Electric Chair are decent, as is a rockabilly revival of “Hanky Panky.” The second half gets more electronic with a wretched medley of “Music/Ray of Light” by Lift Off, a half-baked “Like A Prayer” by Wirebox, and an awful version of “Justify My Love” by the Put-Ons. The saving grace is a semi-gothic “Live To Tell”, an underrated song from the Sean Penn/Chris Walken film, At Close Range, by Mega Manic, which made it onto a comp. tape. If you’re a Madonna-head you’d find all kinds of reasons to hate this. If you’re a fan of patchy (read:bad) tribute records (is there any other kind?) it’s a must. Anthony
@ www.IndependentsAnoymous.com

V/A – “In Our Lifetime, Vol. 3: The Revenge of Boston…” CD 21/67:23
Boston has always put out great compilations, like “the Boston Bootlegs`” Erik Lindgren’s Arf Arf releases, and “This is Boston Not LA`” to just name a few. This one definitely joins the collection towards the top of the list. Roger Miller’s Mission of Burma’s live cut, “Fun World`” is amazing, as is, for example, Dropkick Murphy’s live cover of the Standells' “Dirty Water`” Heavy Stud, Chad Strokes Urnston, and Cave In (who has the great line, “The reality check/is in the mail”). There are plenty others; in fact, except for a very lame rap cut (sounds very white), it’s hard to find a loser. Most of the cuts are pop rock, with an emphasis on the latter, and there’s also some kind of Carmen Miranda thing going on with the true insanity of Kaiju Big, some singer/songwriter (Blake Hazard, sort of a sweeter voiced Amiee Mann… and great-granddaughter of F. Scott Fitzgerald!), and pure experimentation (Fierce Tibetan Gods). Continuing a great tradition. RBF
@ www.fenwayrecordings.com

V/A - “In The Garden” CD 27/67:06
This album is a label retrospective for White Whale, a 60s L.A. indie. Although the Turtles were the label’s cash cow, this volume focuses more on obscure, but presumably “interesting” flops. I always liked “Enamorado” the spanish language hit by Keith Colley, although this version produced by Garry Usher is apparently a re-recording of the one that charted. Laughing Gravy with Dean from Jan & Dean do a cover of the Beach Boys’ “Vejtables”, and the Dillards do their version of Dylan’s “One Too Many Mornings”. Lyme & Cybelle, who had the minor hit “Follow Me” are represented by two tunes here, but both are from after Warren Zevon left the group. This is 60s obscuro-pop with names you’ll recognize like Nino and April, The Clique and Dobie Gray, and names so zany they just might stick with you, like The Hangtown Fry and The Everpresent Fullness. Mel
@ www.revola.co.uk

V/A - “Jesus Christ Superstar” 2XCD
Those evil geniuses at Italy’s Omom label have come up with another one of their fabulous mega-concept albums. It’s a surf version of “Jesus Christ Superstar”. It has bands from ten countries playing mostly surf instrumental versions of songs from the play/movie, and my favorite tracks include a pair of American bands; Crime Factor Zero doing “I Don’t Know How To Love Him” and “The Last Supper” from Hypnotic IV. Mel
@ www.omomworld.com

V/A – “Just for Kids” CD 23/57:54
Four 60’s garage bands share this new comp, courtesy of Misty Lane. The Monuments from Oklahoma were a slightly moody garage outfit with a Farfisa-type organ. Wet Paint were a teen psych-punk group from the north side of Chicago that I actually may have seen live. Mouse & the Boys were Floridians who were definitely on the moody side, although their biggest cult fave now is a bluesy psych blast (“Xcedrin Headache #69”). LA’s Purple Gang offered an odd grab bag ranging from quirky but snotty punk (“I Know What I Am” and the fuzzed-out “Bring Your Own Self Down”) to psych (“Looking Glass”) to Love covers to a novelty song (“Answer the Phone”). The non-hits just keep on coming, thankfully. Jeff
@ www.mistylane@iol.it

V/A – “Kicksville Vol. 2” CD 19/42:20
Yep, it’s a second slab of raw rockabilly taken from acetates and previously heard only by a very, very few lucky souls out there. Doesn’t always get as frenzied as you’d expect (especially when you see the name of one H. Adkins among the artists) but you can still find some quality tuneage from the likes of Joe, Ron and George; Ferry Coffery; and Jimmy Sysum and the Rockin’ Three. Of course, one can wonder if the use of acetates means we’re slowly but surely running out of primo rockabilly (and 60s garage, for that matter) treasures to uncover (shudder!), but in the meantime this is a worthwhile addition to your collection. David
@ www.nortonrecords.com

V/A – “King Rock’n’ Roll” CD 24/56:39
King was a fully self contained label, and maybe that’s what held them back a bit. All recording, production, packaging and marketing came from the offices and studios of this Cincinnati label headed by Syd Nathan. They put out some great soul, R&B, and country in the 50’s and early 60’s before Beatlemania killed off the label, and this comp focuses on the early rock and roll and rockabilly they put out. Nathan always thought the core of the label’s following were country fans, and some of the acts here trend toward country territory for sure, and many of the artists were country guys trying to make it in the post-Elvis era or people just getting their start. It leads to some of generic material, and some outright stolen riffs and vocal imitation, but it’s still an enjoyable listen. H-Bomb Ferguson does the beg, scream and shout thing on the R&B tinged “Midnight Ramblin’ Tonight”, Moon Millican infuses a strong hillbilly vocal style to “Rock ‘n’ Roll, Mr. Bullfrog”, and Teddy Humphries adds a little of the blues to his “Guitar Pickin’ Fool”. Most songs though take what Elvis and Buddy Holly were doing and stick to the basics; which is just fine by me. Steve
@ www.acerecords.co.uk

V/A - "Kinky Star Hot Collection 2003" 2XCD 14/55:27
Kinky Star claims to be "one of the few truly independent labels in Belgium." Their roster is all over the place: new rock, cold wave, hip-hop, ska. Poppish bands like Starfighter and De Bossen are darned radio-friendly, while others like weird hip-hoppers 'T Hof Van Commerce seem to be club-oriented, and Dr. Pepper Family generally less commercial in a rock vein. Also included is a bonus multimedia disc, but for whatever reason there was no booklet in my copy, so there is not a single word about any of the bands. An oversight that I can't explain, unless someone just lost the damn thing. Anthony
@ www.kinkystar.com

V/A - “Ladyfest UK 2003” CD 15/53:15
Any compilation leaves me feeling a bit hot and cold. Few and far between are collections that make me want to listen consistently straight through. This is not an exception. There are some songs on this compilation that are pretty rocking. But most of them sound like other bands. I keep thinking I’m hearing Le Tigre, but I never am. Track 14, one of the better tracks on the album, is called “Evergreen” by the band Angelica. But really I could swear it was Sleater-Kinney. The most well-known band on the compilation is probably Bis and I’m not a huge fan. It’s a pretty fun track, but a little clubby for my taste (I imagine gyrating khaki clad butts rubbing against short skirts). Sharon
@ www.bearos.co.uk

V/A – “Let’s Start The Action: An Electronic Tribute to DOA” 22/74:52
Now here’s something different. As the subtitle sez DOA is given the tribute treatment by various “electronic” acts, resulting in interpretations ranging from industrial rock to post-Atari Teenage Riot to experimental ambient tracks that are unrecognizable from the original source material (not bad, just unrecognizable), with one punkrock original from the band in question (with female backing vox even). Interesting idea, though as with most of these tribute/compilations a mixed bag; best tracks are the ones that took a page or two from Alec Empire’s handbook, worst tracks involve sub-Ministry clones that even Cleopatra Records would turn their nose up at. Next time kick out the Jourgensen wanna-bes and bring in some Locust-type folk. David
@ www.suddendeath.com

V/A - “Liberation-Songs To Benefit PETA” CD 16/43:30
“17 billion fish, 9 billion chickens, 118 million pigs and 41 million cows are killed every year.” Numbers don’t lie. Too bad most people don’t give a shit. It’s also too bad this crappy compilation won’t do much to change that. You’d think with the marginalized view most people have of PETA, and animal rights, they would compile a better p.r. tool than this. Hot Water Music and Desaparecidos are the stand-outs among the likes of Good Riddance, Bigwig, District 7 and the unlistenable acoustic turd by Good Charlotte. At least Goldfinger does “Fuck Ted Nugent.” If you’re trying to encourage people to actually buy this thing, maybe you should include among the sixteen songs more than two not already on the band’s records. I realize this is a spur of the moment deal initiated by Fat Mike and PETA, but they blew it. Animals are sentient creatures that feel pain, and they cannot speak for themselves, so it is important to speak up for them (just think about someone torturing your dog , cat or iguana), but this is not the platoon you want on point. PETA needs new leadership. Fat Wreck Chords is another matter. Anthony
@ www.fatwreck.com

V/A – “Living in the Past” CD 19/43:08
Just when I began to think that all the great Dutch beat music had already been reissued, and that the bottle of the barrel was being scraped, along came Misty Lane with this spectacular collection. Several of the songs herein have appeared on other reissues, but the advantage here is that the compilers, having great taste, have put together lots of fab tracks on one handy disc (in contrast to the hit-or-miss series of Phantom reissues). Here one can find several terrifically moody cuts of the sort that I love (e.g., by the Sheiks, the Fashions, and the Young Ones) along with more Mersey-like tracks. All in all, a stellar collection of atmospheric Nederbeat. Jeff
@ www.mistylane@iol.it

V/A – “Lost in Translation” soundtrack CD 15/53:56
Lotsa buzz around this release since it featuring the long-awaited return of My Bloody Valentine’s Kevin Shields. Even if the tunes aren’t quite up to “Loveless” levels (admittedly a nigh impossible act to follow) they’re still more-than-listenable enough to make you wish he’d sever his current association with Primal Scream (giving Gillespie a good bitchslapping on the way out) and resume following his own musical muse. The other tracks are either mostly similar dreamy noise-poptones or worthwhile atmo-soundtrack pieces, with only a few weak links, probably the film’s versions of Blueshammer. Of course the “hidden bonus track” of Bill Murray taking on Roxy Music’s “More Than This” is the icing on the cake (tell me you wouldn’t rather listen to his version than 10,000 Maniacs’). David
@ www.emperornorton.com

V/A - “Masked and Anonymous” soundtrack CD 14/66:22
Although this is supposed to be a soundtrack, a couple songs on it aren’t from the movie, and four Dylan performances from the film aren’t included. The opening tune is “My Back Pages” by the Magokoro Brothers, and is sung in Japanese. One high point here is Articolo 31’s hip-hop take on “Like a Rolling Stone” in the form of “Come Una Pietra Scalciata”. Another good one is “Diamond Joe” by the film’s star, Bob Dylan. Critics say the movie is one of the worst film ever, but the soundtrack certainly has its moments. Mel
@ www.columbiarecords.com

V/A – “Matinee 50!” CD 20/64:16
In celebration of their six year of existence (and 50th single release), this stalwart indie imprint out of Santa Barbara (sunny place for such….rainy music) gets twenty of their acts to cover songs released by other Matinee bands and voila – a thematic sampler record. What you have is a bunch of bands who sound like the Smiths covering other bands who sound like the Smiths. Or maybe the La’s. Which is fine if you like those groups, but I found 60 minutes of this highly repetitive, especially for a compilation. A lot of the EPs put out by this label are quite good, so for the unfamiliar this might be a good opportunity to discover a few highly Anglocentric jangle pop bands (most of these bands hail from England or Australia). Scott
@ www.indiepages.com/matinee

V/A – “Maybe Chicago?” CD 24/58:53
A kick in the arse intended for anyone who assumed the Chicago scene died when Big Black/Naked Raygun/Effigies/Los Crudos called it a day. Not only do you get the Tyrades and Functional Blackouts, but you also get lesser-knowns like Vee Dee, the Manhandlers, and White Outs giving up some quality goods, garagey-meets-vintage punk sounds that are blessedly ill-suited for MTV airplay or Hot Topic rackspace. There are admittedly some not-ready-for-prime-time players here as well, but for the most part I found this to be an enjoyable platter indeed. David
@ www.criminaliq.com

V/A - “Me Without You” CD 18/70:19
I don’t know anything about this movie, but it had a heck of a soundtrack. A couple early Clash tracks, and Wreckless Eric and Adam & the Ants. It’s got obscure classics like The Normal’s “Warm Leatherette” and Dillinger’s “Cocaine In My Brain”. There’s songs from Tim Buckley and Nick Drake, as well as the timeless “Another Girl, Another Planet” from the Only Ones. It’s got tracks as old as Sonny and Cher’s “I Got You Babe” and as new as Super Furry Animal’s “Rings Around the World”. Might have been an interesting flick. Mel
@ www.sonymusic.com

V/A - “Metamorphosis” CD 18/60:10
This is a collection of 18 tracks by nine different artists who happen to record for three distinct but affiliated Michigan record labels. Like any compilation of this sort, it’s uneven. The track that opens the album, the Music Lovers’ “This World Vs. the Next World” might be best described as lounge lizard meets Leonard Cohen; it’s very cool. A band called Flare, reveling in its quirky sadness, is another standout. And the shimmery pop of a band like Pas/Cal is always welcome. There are a few duds here, but they’re outweighed by a bunch of smart and inventive songs. Kevin
@ www.darla.com

V/A – “Midwest Rules: You’re Weak, We’re Strong” CD 22/64:45
This is a fine collection of bands on the Midwest label Haunted Town. Most of it is heavy and throbbing ache punk with enough beer in the veins to appease local breweries and rock bar owners everywhere. Lots of it is on the psychobilly tip. Featured here are the Daggers, Phenoms, Almighty Hangovers, Grendel, Bump N Uglies, Nine Pound Hammer, Mashers, Roustabouts, Gotards, Southpaw Manners, Tanka Ray, Forgotten Four and the Brassknuckle Boys. So for any fans of these bands or punkabilly, sideburn psycho swing then this album and collection is for you. I had fun. Maybe play it with reruns of “BJ and the Bear”. Then everything will make sense… Whittaker
@ www.hauntedtownrecords.com

V/A - “Miner’s Benefit” CD 32/76:10
Taken from the Miner’s Benefit, the line-up looks quite promising: U.X.A., Sleepers, Negative Trend, & Tuxedomoon, caught live back in the day (as opposed to past their prime). You do get your fair share of good performances and otherwise unreleased tracks by some of SF’s more underrated but still quite deserving bands. The only negatives are that the sound quality is noticeably less than stellar (understandably preserving the moment for folks to enjoy 25 years after the fact was not a priority) and U.X.A. and Tuxedomoon definite rate more space on the disc than what they have (though I don’t know how usable the rest of their tapes were) but this still makes for a worthy listen. Even if this is more a supplemental than essential part of your vintage punk collection it still most definitely belongs there. David
@ www.whitenoiserecords.net

V/A - "Music from "Taken"" CD 15/47:08
Quite a few classic cuts on this; but in my opinion, it's hard to judge a soundtrack without the context of the movie or TV show, and I didn't see this mini-series when it was on the Sci-Fi channel. For me, a soundtrack has to mesh well with the visuals in the mind's eye to really work, otherwise you've just got another various artists compilation. Still, this has a lot of variety musically and many songs seem to fit with the sci-fi theme of the show; songs include "Purple People Eater" by Sheb Wooley, "Martian Saints" by Mary Lou Lord, "Stairway to the Stars" by Dinah Washington, and "More Than One Heaven" by the Swimming Pool Q's. In fact, as soundtracks go for stuff done by a major production company like Dreamworks (the show was a Steven Spielberg production) this has some pretty fun, and occasionally, obscure tracks. Lots of country and rockabilly tracks too, with appearances by Wynn Stewart, Eddie Cochran, and Brenda Lee. Guessing that since there are plenty of unusual tracks here, that they took some care in picking songs, and it's actually gotten me interested in watching the show if it comes back on. Steve
@ www.dreamworksnashville.com

V/A – “New Found Land” CD 17/66:38
Part one of Music Fellowship’s Tryyptych series, featuring Landing, Yellow6, and Rothko. Yellow6 give up moody ethereal pieces, a couple of generations removed from but still able to trace its lineage back to the vintage 4AD sound. Rothko deal in similarly ethereal sounds, but add in bits of feedback and walls of noise, resulting in more varied (and occasionally ominous) soundscapes. Landing as usual takes the prize, as well as providing the only pieces with vox, some of which work better than others. The two delicate instros are their best though. David
@ www.musicfellowship.com MP3 Download

V/A – “New York City Rock n Roll” CD 22/71:03
You mean compiler Stephen Blush gave up hardcore for this crap? At least the rawk on display here is somewhat varied, from Soundgarden wannabes to folks who sound like leftovers from the Sunset Strip pay-to-play scene. There are a couple of decent tracks, but overall...I don’t know about any of these bands “making it” but if Keel or LA Guns ever need an opening band next time they play the local fairgrounds they’re pretty much set. David
@ www.radicalrecords.com

V/A - "No New York" CD 16/66:37
Yep it's a sampler of that the NY post-punk-garage-etc. scene has to offer. The lineup looks promising enough and it starts off with a bang with the Strokes (live version of "New York Cops"), Roger Sisters, Radio 4, and Ted Leo. However it stumbles badly less than midway through and never quite recovers. Not to mention only four of the songs on here (one of which is the Strokes live track, none from the other bands mentioned) are previously unreleased, with only said Strokes track being any good. There are some good (if, again, previously released) tracks on here, but the rest of this is pretty disposable (it doesn't help that "names" Interpol and Le Tigre aren't exactly represented by their best material either). In the end if this is New York, then I'll take San Francisco any day. David
@ www.atlantic.com

V/A - “Oil” CD 19/65:10
A compilation by the Chicago label Thick, this CD has it’s up and downs (as label compilations tend to). The first several bands certainly have a similar sound, and if you weren’t paying attention you might think you were just listening to one band’s full length. Local H, Alkaline Trio...you get the idea. But as you get further into the compilation there is a bit more variety with such oddities as Irish “Teehan’s” by the Tossers. The tracks were all recorded within 15 days of each other at a makeshift recording studio with the intention of “perfect representations of Chicago’s rich tradition as a ‘no bones about it’ working-class town.” For a supposed no-glitz, only grits album, the recording is awfully polished. The standout tracks are the least indiepunk tracks on the album, and there are a few of them. Tom Daily’s track is actually an acoustic beauty and I dig the voice of the guy from The Owls. Sharon
@ www.thickrecords.com

V/A - "Old Enough To Know Better" 3XCD
This is a Merge Records label sampler. Merge has been covering the poppy side of indie, and doing it well. Two discs of previously released tunes followed by a disc of so called "rarities". The 42 tracks on the first two discs are a delight. Name bands like Neutral Milk Hotel, Buzzcocks, Portastatic, Magnetic Fields, and The Clean, sit alongside equally fine tracks by lesser knowns like Bricks, Third Eye Foundation, Erectus Monotone and others. Excellent. Mel
@ www.mergerecords.com

V/A – “Old Skars and Upstarts 2004” CD 27/70:11
The first one of these punk n’roll comps from Disaster Records surprised the crap outta me, it was so good- and the 2004 edition is just as impressive. Duane Peters (US Bombs, Die Hunns) sits around and sifts through hundreds of demos and submissions to pick 70 minutes of snarl, sweat, chops, melody, and attitude for this comp. While there are some songs which are merely pretty decent, the top songs here include a new classic from everyone’s fave skinny-tie punks The Briefs about Casey Casum (sorry Bob Seger and Gary Gilmore, the band’s moved on!). Two other surprises are an incredibly amped-up new tune from old faves D.I. (“O.C.’s Burning”) and a gnarly version of the classic Nuns tune “Suicide Child” by Pascal Briggs. The other rockinest tunes come from The Revolvers, The District, Throw Rag, Sit N Spin, The Fucko’s, and the dearly departed Insaints. There’s a whole lot of Punk here to skate to, or to spike your hair to, or to have oral sex to, so dig in! Jesse
@ Disaster, PO Box 7112, Burbank, CA 91510

V/A - "Once Upon A Time In Wigan" CD 24/66:51
What I love about the curious phenom that is Northern Soul, is that you're always going to get foot-tapping, high quality dance fare, and it doesn't matter who did it. This evidently is the soundtrack for a recent British theatrical production, set amid the hedonism and craziness surrounding one of the UK's most legendary dancehalls, the Wigan Casino (which featured thematically in The Fall's classic 'Lie Dream of A Casino Soul'), and there's really not a bad track among this double-dozen to be found. Favorites (today, anyway) include the great Timi Yuro's "It'll Never Be Over for Me"; a stunning Four Tops knockoff by the Incredibles, "There's Nothing Left to Say Baby", and Dean Parrish's end-of-the-night-closer "I'm On My Way". Even Frankie Valli, of all people, strikes dancefloor gold with his "The Night". Wrap it up with two recently salvaged cuts by Otis Redding and Carla Thomas, and hey, Sam and Dave, I'll take it too. MLH
@ www.acerecords.co.uk

V/A - "Ooh Ooh Ahh: Moments of Musical Ecstasy" CD 21/74:05
Let me get this straight. You compile this gathering of rare instrumental fuck tunes covering multiple genres over two decades and you don't include any of the band/artist names. WHAT THE HELL? Inspired by the Jane Birkin/Serge Gainsbourg quasi-classic "Je T'Aime Moi Non Plus", this cum-addled collection runs the musical gamut from lounge and mood musique to funky jungle jams all with super sexy, and often disturbing, orgasmic moans and groans laid over the top but not a single artist or songwriter is listed. Each song sizzles with sweat-soaked sucking and fucking noises that would make a corpse sit up but without knowing who it is it almost becomes a pointless exercise in fuck muzak. Some serious musical junkies will recognize a few of these but most are mucho obscuro. There aren't even any decent liner notes. My girlfriend will dig it regardless, but there's no excuse for such bullshit from an otherwise fine label. Anthony
@ www.arfarfrecords.com

V/A – “Our Brilliant Careers” CD 22/72:18
Another collection of early (now) rarities from the Cherry Red stable, featuring Five or Six, Ben Watt, Reflections, Nightingales, (early) Everything but the Girl, Monochrome Set, Joe Crow, and Fantastic Something. Some of these tracks are a bit on the dour side, reflecting what happens when you stay in bedsitland too long with getting enough sunlight, but overall this is a worthwhile document of what was happening in early UK indieland. David
@ www.cherryred.co.uk

V/A – “Pacific Union” CD 15/71:00
A collaborative effort between Clairecords and sister label Vinyl Junkie Recordings, featuring like-minded outfits from Japan and the US (with a couple from Elsewhere) specializing in the sounds of dreampop, noisepop, shoegazer, and what they used to call “Oceanic rock” when they were trying to find ways to tag bands like the Cocteau Twins. Folks you’d find within include the likes of Airiel, Sciflyer, Paik, Sugarcoat, and more. I know that at least some of these tracks have been previously (since?) released, but assuming you don’t get shipments of Japanese shoegaze on a regular basis, this would definitely be a worthwhile addition to the shoegazer section of your music library David
@ www.clairecords.com

V/A – “Parasol’s Sweet Sixteen” CD 22/78:18
I’m happy to present the indie-version of “Now That’s What I Call Music Vol. 263!” As sampler records go (if we’re all assuming the intent here is to turn you on to new and unheard bands), this one portends to be one of best, mostly for the Scandinavian influence and the inclusion of one of my favorite bands, The RCA-approved-then-rejected Wannadies (‘bout time somebody released their most recent record here). So yeah, this comp includes selected tracks of the Parasol, Hidden Agenda, Mud (and more) imprints. Standing out is the aforementioned Wannadies, with powerpop that simply transcends and outpowers the vast number of pretenders out there (I’m biased, I admit); the beautiful melodic melancholy of the terribly named Sukilove; and the icy cool drama-pop of Cardigans-impersonators Club 8. Seeing as this retails pretty low (I believe it’s $5) it’s very very worthy, even as a collection of good, sometimes great, singles. Scott
@ www.parasol.com

V/A – “Parasol’s Sweet Sixteen, Vol. 6” CD 21/76:24
Say what you will about Parasol’s stable of artists, the label always has enough material to create winning compilations. The sixth of Parasol’s Sweet Sixteen series maximizes on what the label does best: melody, melody, melody. The first third is the strongest, pulling from Parasol’s healthy archive of psych rock and pop. A stunning new song from Bettie Serveert segues beautifully into Thirdimension’s raucous BritRock. Equally worthy of mention is the unearthed track from forgotten mod outfit The Action – a rollicking, raucous slice of Nuggets-rock. The compilation’s middle section is given over to fey synthpop, and sags noticeably. The songs are slight and fail to offer much memorable. Sweet Sixteen closes on strength, shifting the focus again to the label’s indiepop offerings. While songs by Bikeride and Steve Almaas are dishwatery, Absinthe Blind’s moody folk and Fonda’s drunk-on-stars shoegaze are priceless. – J. Edward
@ www.parasol.com

V/A – “Party Party Party” CD 34/79:23
As the title suggests, this compilation focuses on upbeat, relatively high-energy garage rock that could easily provide the backdrop for a mid-‘60’s party. In practice that means a lot of goofy songs that fall into the “frat rock” category (like those of Joey Bellomo and Jimmy White), which has never been one of my favorite subgenres, along with dance-oriented garage rock (like that of the Gallows and the 4 Score), neo-rockabilly (like that of the Devils), or “blue-eyed” R&B (like that of the Rave-Ons). What you won’t find here is punk, psych-punk, rockin’ psych, or moody material, the really primo stuff from this era. Still, if you want to organize a ‘60’s-themed shindig with bongs and kegs and play danceable music that’s more obscure than Sam the Sham, the Kingsmen, and the Knickerbockers, this could be the ticket. Jeff
@ www.arfarfrecords.com

V/A – “Perspectives & Distortion” CD 17/56:03
Reissue of the 1981 compilation released by Cherry Red, focusing on groups and individuals that were more concerned with coloring outside the lines instead of staying within them, if you get my drift. (One can just imagine fretful critics trying to pigeonhole the likes of Virgin Prunes, Lemon Kittens, early The The et al; “Post-Punk“ just doesn’t seem to cut it, y’know?). Think of a then-current Messethics for the avant-folks and bedroom tape set and you’d have an idea of the goods on display here. A few tracks are too precious or impenetrable for their own good, but ultimately one of your more rewarding collection. Caveat: it would have been nice to have more info (past and/or present) on the artists, especially since details on folks like Claire Thomas & Susan Vezey and A Tent isn’t that easy to come by. David
@ www.cherryred.co.uk

V/A - "Pet Projects" CD 23/51:58
Brian Wilson's commercial success as a producer was mainly with his own band, the Beach Boys. Wilson was a fixture on the L.A. scene though, involved with other singers and songrighters who might cross his path, most notably Gary Usher, and Brian's wife's vocal group, the Honeys, who contribute 8 tracks here. This disc documents the mixed results of 23 of Brian's side projects, none of which sold well, although some received a fair amount of radio play. In a sense these are lost Beach Boys tracks. Sharon Marie's "Thinkin' Bout You Baby" later transformed into the Beach Boys' "Darlin"", while the Survivors, with Brian on vocals, turned "Car Crazy Cutie" into the superior "Pamela Jean", it's original incarnation before the Beach Boys committed it to vinyl. With 8 Honeys' tracks and 4 by Sharon Marie you can hear how strongly influenced Wilson was by the Ronnettes, Crystals and Angels. Half of this is interesting clunkers and half are lost gems that are essential listening for any Brian Wilson fan. Mel
@ www.acerecords.co.uk

V/A - "Planet of the Popboomerang" CD 25/76:07
The Popboomerang label from Australia is doing a great job of putting out some of the best pop from Australia, and their earlier compilation, "Shake Yer Popboomerang" showcased the best of Aussie pop. This effort takes another look at some of those bands, and expands the view worldwide. The one thing in common that all of these bands have are hooks galore; and although I'd love to write something on every song, I just can't. Suffice it to say, there are a number of gems on this, ranging from the big guitar sound of the Lolas, the Rubinoos influenced Japanese band Oranges, the overtly Big Star sounding Champale from Brooklyn, and the Teenage Fanclub sounds of the Richies (a little tongue in cheek actually, since their song is entitled "Fanclubesque") from Australia. Other artists include Danny McDonald, Movin' Jelly from Japan, Aussie power pop godfather Dom Mariani, and the CD closes with Salt Water Taffy from Japan, who do a great pop take on Quiet Riot's "We're Not Going to Take It", complete with female vocals and a Shop Assistants vibe. For anyone looking for where the sound of powerpop is headed over the next decade or so, this is the perfect release as it showcases a variety of styles in the genre from all over the world. Steve
@ www.popboomerang.com

V/A – “Poor Boy: Songs of Nick Drake” CD 14/78:16
When I first listened to this I honestly wondered whether the pressing plant had pressed some other release onto this disc; while there are some more, ahem, conventional interpretations to be found, there are also a few jazzier tracks and other renditions that Drake probably didn’t quite have in mind when he composed said works. Sometimes the revisionism gets cloying, but other parts actually work quite well. Works better if you think of this less as a “tribute” and more of these folks doing what John Coltrane, et al used to do with “My Favorite Things” and the like, using ND’s work as a springboard for their own explorations. David
@ www.songlines.com

V/A - "Pop Greetings, Volume 4" CD 12/43:38
Everyone is paying close attention to Sweden lately as the Land of Garage Rock Heaven, and with good reason. But the fact is Swedish bands were releasing solid indie pop albums to little or no attention long before the current wave of mainstream media hype. This comp, the fourth in a series of pop rock collections, updates the world on some of the lesser known but equally worthy Swedish exports. Safari Season, The Venue, The Gilijoteens and Dorian Gray are just a few of the 60s British Invasion-influenced groups to grace "Pop Greetings, Volume 4," a collaboration between American and Swedish labels. Swirling distortion, sugary hooks and charmingly affected vocals are the norm on these tuneful offerings, which admittedly break little new ground. There are no real standout tracks because everything is pretty great. Worth checking out if you're dying to hear something other than Sahara Hotnights and The Soundtrack of Our Lives on your international jukebox. John
@ www.ziprecords.com

V/A - Pop Under the Surface Vol. 4" CD 24/71:55
Another installment of Stefan Johannson's great compilations of today's underground pop scene; this volume includes plenty of bands from all over the world, and show off a genre that is overlooked by the conglomerates that run the music biz these days. With songs that range from traditional guitar driven power pop to jingle jangle to countifried twangy pop, this compilation has plenty of great material on it. Bands include The Lolas, the Decibels, Bobby Sutliff, current Brian Wilson sideman Jeffrey Foskett, The Lackloves, and Aussies P76, the Oranges from Japan, La Ruta from Spain, and the punky Tonies. This is a great primer for people interested in a lively scene that gets little attention, and deserves a lot more. Steve
@ www.ziprecords.com

V/A - "Punk and Disorderly" 2XCD Box
Around 1982 there was a second wave of UK punk bands that put out tons of great records, although none of them ever became household names. The "Punk and Disorderly" series of comps was the first to document the movement, collecting great singles tracks from labels like Riot City and No Future, etc., including great bands like Abrasive Wheels, Violators, Vice Squad and Angelic Upstarts. Some American bands, Dead Kennedys, D.I., Channel Three and the Germs, incongrously made the cut here, though their material didn't quite have the firepower of the Brits. This comes with a poster of the front cover, and a punk lookin' patch, but the best reason to own it is because it contains at least 15 essential punk classics, and the other 24 ain't half bad. Also, the liner notes include a nice "Where Are They Now" feature. Mel
@ www.cleorecs.com/

V/A - "Punk Rock Is Your Friend" CD 17/53:07
I'm not a fan of a lot of the Kung Fu roster but this comp is not bad. With unreleased songs by the Vandals, the God Awfuls and six bonus videos including the Vandals "4320-1" and "Take The Reins" by Tsunami Bomb, who have a tinge of the Rezillos in them, this thing packs enough anarcho-pop-punk punch to keep any party of sixteen year olds going for days. Ozma, Audio Karate, the God Awfuls and the Ataris all contribute numbers that will stand up to more than one play. Honest. Anthony
@ www.kungfurecords.com

V/A – “Punk Rock Is Your Friend Vol. 5” CD 29/61:43
The fifth installment of the Kung Fu Records sampler disc series, this kicks off with some blazing hardcore screamo from Underminded that left me going “ooohhh nooooo”. Mixed in with other bands on the label, like the Vandals, Tsunami Bomb, Stiff Little Fingers, and the Adolescents are a fair number of Warped Tour type bands that range in style from hardcore to pop punk and a little ska. There are some highlights; Tsunami Bomb does a fun electro pop number full of keyboards and an incredible dance beat, Antifreeze has a good pop punk number on here with some nice harmonies, plus a good track by old standbys Stiff Little Fingers. There are also five videos on this if you stick the disc into your computer, including Neil Hamburger, the Vandals, and Antifreeze. Some of the material is previously unreleased, although most is culled from Kung Fu releases. Joe Escalante of the Vandals is doing a good job of putting together a pretty diverse by punk standards label, and this comp shows that off well, even if you don’t care for half the bands. Steve
@ www.kungfurecords.com

V/A - "Punk vs Emo" 2XCD (Punk 25/70:42, Emo 22/76:53)
The title of the release pretty much tells it all; one CD of "punk" bands, the other is "emo", although, as I've indicated by the quotes around punk and emo, the lines are pretty blurred in some cases, particularly on the emo disc, where there are a couple of songs that could have easily fit into the punk camp. The punk disc includes several fine tunes; The Queers are in top pop punk/Ramones form with "I Wanna Be Happy", the Huntingtons add keyboards to their version of Ramones 1-2-3-4 punk on their track to good effect, the Travoltas make an appearance, and there are other staples of the genre, like Down By Law, Darlington, and Snuff, The biggest revelation for me of bands I wasn't familiar with were the funny Straight Out of Junior High, who do a Queers turn with "Divas Are Skanks". The emo disc in general falls into the Get Up Kids style of emo, pop tunes that have some hooks that fall short of having the raging emotion and scream-o vocals that for me make a good emo tune. Now if you don't care about categories, and don't think of these as "emo" songs, then there are a few decent tunes. Among the better tracks are Rufio's "Set it Off" which has a ton of melody and head bobbing , Onelinedrawing's semi acoustic number has some nice urgency, Bayside's "Loveless Wrists" lyrics about suicide certainly fit the bill, and The Goodwill's "Let It Go", which is definitely more of a solid powerpop tune than anything emo, and Adventures of Jet's new wavey pop. And the finishing tune by The Bottom Line is a solid piece of emo punk. Nothing earthshattering here, and the emo disc could use more material that actually touches the emotions, but it's good value for the money and you'll probably hear something you dig and didn't know about. Steve
@ www.fastmusic.com

V/A – “Punk-o-Rama 8” 2XCD 32/99:16
Another sampler from Epitaph, featuring a buncha previously-released tracks by various label acts as well as new tracks from Pennywise, Sage Francis, and Error, and a Quicktime video from Death By Stereo. Chances are good that you already know by now whether you’re gonna buy this or pass it by. Still, while they’ve lost Rancid to famed street-punk label Warner Brothers, with outfits like (International) Noise Conspiracy, Turbonegro, and Randy still on the roster methinks Epitaph doesn’t have too much to worry about. David
@ www.epitaph.com

V/A - "Raw Deal" CD 16/35:39
A 1977 UK punk compilation which starts off with The Users doing "I'm In Love With Today", a single which stands as one of the great punk anthems from '77. Also, the Bloodclots take on "Louie Louie" is bloody brilliant, and Psycho's "Young, British and White" is a fine punk response to Nina Simone's '60s hit "Young, Gifted and Black". The highlight here are the four tracks from Sick Things, a tragically underrated '77 London punk band fronted by a girl named Charlie. Mel
@ www.damagedgoods.co.uk

V/A – “Ready Steady Go: The Countdown Records Story” CD 23/66:42
This sample comp chronicles the underground early- to mid-80’s neo-Mod scene in the UK, which supposedly flourished despite media neglect and disdain. It features bands suck as Makin’ Time (no doubt named after one of the Creation’s killer tracks, though they sound nothing at all like that band), Fast Eddie (an R&B outfit), the Kick, the Moment, the Scene, the Reflection, and better known groups such as the Prisoners and Long Tall Shorty. Most of ‘em churn out reasonably catchy ditties, albeit often with horns, but he main problem is that few of these tracks have the heavy guitar attack of their purported 60’s and punkier late 70’s Mod forebears, the Ambassadors and Long Tall Shorty being the main exceptions. Jeff
@ www.acerecords.co.uk

V/A – "Redder Records Presents: Metaphysics for Beginners" CD 18/69:18
As you can see from above, it’s a compilation, and like all other compilations, there’s some good and some bad. The plus is the entire compilation is unreleased or rare material. Considering I’ve heard of a great number of the acts featured here, I’m surprised I’ve never come across this label before. Great tracks by From Monument to Masses, Snowglobe, Zykos, Figurine, Saturday Looks Good to Me, Kind of Like Spitting, and Summer at Shatter Creek; decent-but-not-great songs by Sufjan Stevens, Detachment Kit, and the Gloria Record; and yet a few others not even worth mention really. A decent compilation for the most part. Jake
@ www.redderrecords.com

V/A - “Rockers” CD 14/45:41
I remember enjoying this 1978 reggae movie filmed in Jamaica with numerous reggae stars including the late Peter Tosh, Gregory Isaacs, Burning Spear, and starring Leroy Horsemouth Wallace in the lead role. As a reggae comp this soundtrack is about as good as it gets. Some of the best reggae tunes ever including “Rockers” by Bunny Wailer, “We A Rockers” by Inner Circle, “Money Worries” from the Maytones, “Natty Take Over” by Justin Hines, “Book Of Rules” by the Heptones, “Fade Away” by Junior Byles, etc! Ridiculously essential. Mel
@ www.universalchronicles.com

V/A - “Sad Songs Remind Me, the Emo Diaries, Chapter 9” CD 12/60:36
While I missed Chapters one through nine of this compilation series I have a feeling that I’ve heard all I need to. Which is not to say I didn’t enjoy this CD immensely. It’s made for people just like me…a sucker for sad lyrics, loud guitars and a pop hook. I’ve never heard of any of the bands on this CD, but any number of them could be the next emo darlings of the MTV sect. At the same time, a number of them could be playing tiny shows in big cities and totally blowing you away with their intricate guitar work and quiet melodies. Sharon
@ www.deepelm.com

V/A – “Saved By Punk Rock” CD-R 18/41:36
It was bound to happen: the CD-R has replaced the cassette as format of choice for those ubiquitous punk compilations. As with its beloved/despised predecessors, you end up with a mixed product, though at least most of these bands are at least listenable (unlike too many bands on said tapes it doesn’t sound like most of them sent out material after their third rehearsal), with standouts including Unit 21, Sore Losers, Civilian Outbreak, and Goddam Ditchdiggers. It would have been nice to have included contact addresses/websites for the bands though. David
@ www.rezistrecords.com

V/A - "Shake Yer Popboomerang" CD 23/73:19
I've been singing the praises of the Aussie pop scene for a long time, and this release shows it off in all its glory. There are both new faces and old on this, with the Godfather of Australian power pop Dom Mariani from the Stems and DM3, Danny McDonald of P76, Superscope, Joe Algeri of Jack and the Beanstalk, and others mixed in with some great unknown on these shores bands. The songs are all bright and crisp with plenty of ringing guitar work, and there isn't a clunker in the bunch. Among my favorites is the title cut, done by the Stoneage Hearts, which is a great powerpop/punk song with good guitar work and driving rhythm section. Also deserving special mention is the jangle pop of The Dreamdayers, the charming girl fronted pop of the Decembers, and the always handclapping Run On One. This is a fun, roll down the windows and turn it up loud shot of summertime pop music, sure to have your hands clapping, toes tapping, and singing along to the "ooohs" and "woah woah" backing vocals so prevalent on may of the songs. A great compilation. Steve
@ www.popboomerang.com

V/A – “Shake Yer Popboomerang, Vol. 2” CD 23/76:13
This is the second compilation from this label that focuses exclusively on Aussie pop bands, and it shows off just how great the pop scene is down under. The opening track by Her Majesty’s Finest, with help from Go Betsy’s Kate Duncan, serves as the title cut and was written specially for the disc. It sets the tone, great vocal and harmonies, handclaps, and some great guitar work. The disc moves from there, with plenty of similar movers and shakers among the tunes. But there’s also a range of material presented; Hoolahan pulls off a pretty decent Pernice Brothers impersonation, albeit with a bit more distortion, on their track “Grasshopper Island”. Peabody does a tune that would fit well on Sugar’s “Copper Blue”, and Milli Davis little girl vocals make for an interesting change mid disc on a fine indie pop tune. There are other gems scattered through the disc, and I’d love to hear more from just about every band on this comp. It will definitely leave you wanting more, and checking out the Aussie scene, which has always been strong and just keeps getting better. Steve
@ www.popboomerang.com

V/A – “Shielded by Death” CD 27/65:22
Not so much a Killed by Death-type compilation (despite the similar title) but more a representation of a particular scene, Eastern CT & Western MA ’77-’86 to be exact, ranging in style from proto-punkers to near-hardcore thrashers to poppier (if still rough-edged) numbers. This is actually closer to the old “Lest We Forget” tape collections that Aaron Cometbus used to put together. Don’t think it’s just regional pride that would make take LWF over this, but this is still a solid enough look back, with enough good numbers from the likes of Malarians, Jack Tragic & the Unfortunates, and Chronic Disorder to keep non-locals satisfied. David
@ www.dionysusrecords.com

V/A – “Shielded by Death volume 3” CD 46/38:33
The third in a series of reissues of underground New England and Massachusetts punk from the late 1970s and early 1980s. Like most such collections this one is not entirely consistent or uniformly top-notch, but it nevertheless showcases several fine tracks, including those by Last Supper, Psycho, the Transplants, T.V. Neats, the Dispossessed, and 8th Route Army. There’s also a bit of hardcore crap – which makes the great lyrics to s.v.e.e.’s “Screw the Crew” all the more appropriate – and some arty damage included herein, but it’s still great to have all of this relatively obscure and sometimes unreleased punk material resurrected from the vaults and placed in a convenient format. Jeff
@ www.dionysusrecords.com

V/A – “Shite ‘n’ Onions” CD 22/65:15
If you dig the Pogues and don’t mind listening to 15 different bands doing their take on the celtic/Irish punk thing, then this is for you. The disc leads off with the Mahones from Canada doing a high energy track called “Queen and Tequila”, complete with Shane MacGowan references and a singer who could be a dead ringer for Shane. From there, the songs range anywhere from very traditional sounding Irish/Celtic songs with a bit of a punk take, like the Mahones other track on this (man, these guys are great-can’t believe they’ve put out 4 albums and I’ve never heard of ‘em!) comp. The recording quality varies on these tunes quite a bit, and not everyone who tries to sound like Shane can carry it off well, so this is a little bit of a mixed bag, but you can’t complain about the energy these Irish-Punk bands put out. Other bands included on this are Neck, the Tossers, Nogoodnix, the Skels, and well…more. Get your green beer ready, find a recipe for corned beef and cabbage, and go to town. Steve
@ www.omnium.com

V/A – “Shout! – The Revolution Rave-up Alive!!! 1997-2003” CD 15/48:33
If you think rock music simply hasn’t been the same since the New York Dolls kicked off their platforms and called it a day, you’ll want to check this out (unless, of course, you’re already familiar with the bands). Nothing mind-blowing here, but these 13 American bands (Vue, Greenhornes, Holmes, Witnesses, Mover, the Boggs, Knoxville Girls, the Hiss, Calla, Elefant, Dead Meadow, the Warlocks, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club) faithfully trace the paths paved by early-era Stones, Black Sabbath, Pink Floyd, New York Dolls, Muddy Waters, et al. A good overview compiled by the deejays at Shout!, a NYC club night, according to the PR material, that has been keeping the East Coast’s mod/garage scene alive since 1997. Lily
@ Kemado, 601 W. 26th Street, 11th fl., NYC, NY 10001

V/A – “Sigh Cry Die” CD 29/78:14
With a title like this, I was hoping for a reprise of Arf Arf’s ultra-moody “No No No” compilation, one of my all-time fave records. Although this new collection is also filled with the same sort of teen angst and tragedy, upon first listening it doesn’t seem nearly as haunting or heartbreaking as that earlier collection. Even so, there are lots of very cool and enjoyably depressing cuts, such as Kings Ransom’s “Without You,” the Bittersweets’ “She Treats Me Bad,” the Changing Times’ “She Laughed at Me” (ouch!), the Gents’ “I’ll Cry,” the Chaynes’ “Run and Hide,” the Secrets’ “Cryin’ Over Her,” and the Nomads’ “How Many Times.” Come to think of it, maybe this comp will likewise grow on me more and more with repeated listenings, as moody numbers sometimes take a little longer to insinuate themselves into one’s psyche. If you’re already down, please get rid of all of your sharp knives before listening to this album. Jeff
@ www.arfarfrecords.com

V/A – “Single Wish: Presented by: The Caffeinated Robots” CD 13/44:57
I’m not sure that an indie record label is the best way to make money for a good cause, no matter how good that cause may be, indie-rockers are hardly selling out the stadiums. Regardless, this is nice little compilation for a good cause, with artists like The Birds of America and Robert Pollard. Like all compilations, some things stand out more than others, like Nick Kizirnis’ “Stood Looking Both Ways” and the Green Pajamas’ “Addiction.” I hope this group never makes enough money for their cause, but that’s because I’m be interested in what Sprite Recording/Luna Music puts out in the future. Pam
@ www.caffeinatedroborts.org

V/A – “Small, My Table” CD 18/75:47
This is a somewhat interesting mix of highly mixed and eclectic selections. While mostly of the commercial soft rock nature (some folk rock, some singer/songwriter rock), there is a wide choice of the non-MOR. Some interesting examples are Robynn Ragland’s “Any Thoughts on This” (which has a fine, catchy riff running through it), Vice Dolls’ “Modern Guns” (hardcore), and parts of Sativa’s “Thrasher” (ska influenced, though runs out of steam). . RBF
@ www.innocentwords.com

V/A - “Smoking Popes Tribute” CD 13/50:17
As far as I’m concerned tribute albums are a shaky concept at best. This one is typical of the problem, which is basically lesser versions of excellent songs. The Popes wrote some fine tunes, but the thing that really put them across were Josh Caterer’s unique vocal stylings, which are absent here, although you do actually get one track here with Josh fronting his current band, Duvall, as well as tracks from Mike Felumlee and Tom Daily. Mel
@ www.suburbanhomerecords.com

V/A - "Smoking Popes - Tribute" CD 16/50:24
I loved this band when it was around, but there's something about a tribute for a band that only put out three full lengths that just doesn't ring true. The other issue about this tribute is that the thing that made the Smoking Popes so unique was lead singer Josh Caterer's voice; the expressiveness and emotion reminds me of Morrissey and can't easily be duplicated by others. Without that characteristic on these covers, most just don't come close to the originals. There are exceptions; Duvall features Josh's singing anyway so it doesn't count, but some of the other ex-members of the Popes also take turns on songs they performed as members of the band, and they do decent work as well. But there are too many attempts to make the songs a bands' own via vocal histrionics that just don't work; either with screaming like Grade does on "Days Just Wave Goodbye" or special effects like on the opening verse Retro Morning's version of "Need You Around". Besides, no one took on my favorite Popes song, "Let's Here it For Love". There are three additional songs not listed on the track listing that are hidden after the last song. Steve
@ www.doublezerorecords.com

V/A - "Snoisses: The Skateboarder Sessions" CD 17/44:04
The schtick here is that each of the bands on this comp features a professional skater (except for the Smut Peddlers, but they rock, so whatever). Some of these bands you may have heard of (The Faction, Clay Wheels, US Bombs, The Hunns), others you might not have (Mike V and the Rats, Heartaches, Operatic, Westbound Stagecoach, Shed, Bark Hard, Powerflex 5, Johnny and the Dudes, Olsonite, Cacti Widders, Sten Guns, Ray Barbee). Perhaps not surprisingly, the primary sound is punk in its various guises (DC hardcore, streetpunk, '80s SoCal, crust), but surf, psychobilly, and garage are also tackled. A lot of good even great - stuff here, and only 4 of these 17 tracks appear elsewhere (although I could easily live with never hearing Lance Mountain butcher SLF's "Here We Are Nowhere" again). You need not be a skater/skater groupie to like this. Lily
@ www.sessionsrecords.com

V/A – “Something’s Gotta Give” soundtrack CD 14/42:41
This soundtrack to the Nicholson/Keaton flick concentrates on (mostly previously-released) “old-jazz”/vocals/bossa nova tunes (to fit that “mood”), with tracks from the likes of Astrud Gilberto, Eartha Kitt (singing in French), Louis Armstrong, Django Reinhardt, Flamingos, and, er, Tyrell. The disc probably works better if you liked the movie and/or want a not-inexpensive sampler to see if you’re into any of the artists, but the music’s still pretty good for their respective genres, and the CD as a whole manages to maintain a consistent mood even when indulging in some genre-hopping. Jack Nicholson doesn’t too badly on his turn at vox (“La Vie En Rose”) either. David
@ www.columbiarecords.com

V/A – “Songs in the Key of Z Vol. 1” CD 20/63:17
Compiled (and a tie-in to the book of the same name) by Irwin Chusid, this is supposedly a sampler of what’s out there in the “outsider music” universe. Despite having some mixed feelings about the whole “outsider music” phenomenon (which I won’t bore you with here) and the inclusion/exclusion of certain folks in both book and CD (if you’re gonna include Captain Beefheart, why not also Sun Ra, Jonathan Richman, the Father Yod cult, or even Iggy Pop) I have to admit it’s at the very least an introduction to folks such as the Shaggs, Jandek, and Lucia Pamela and a good way to hear the music of some of the folks he examines in his book so you can decide for yourself. (It helps that the liner notes don’t exude as much of the annoying condescension towards his subjects that Irwin displays in his book). Folks that devour Boredoms and (vintage) Butthole Surfers for breakfast will wonder what the fuss is all about (though even they would be into some tracks) but if you want to have your sensibilities messed with (so, what is music again?) and witness the (usually inadvertent) creation of entirely new artforms, this is the place to go. David
@ www.gammonrecords.com

V/A – “Songs in the Key of Z: The Curious Universe of Outside Music Volume 2” CD 17/68:41
Not as completely out-of-it’s-gourd fucked-up as I was ‘spectin’, but there is some utterly goofy and arcane shit going on here, such as Shooby Taylor’s elementary school scatting on “Lift Ev’ry Voice”. Music teacher B.J. Snowden, who sounds like a female Wesley Willis, does a sincere, off-key ode called “America”. There’s also Malinda Jackson Parker, a Liberian Congresswoman in her sixities, who bangs away on a piano and belts out a slow aria called “Cousin Mosquito #2”. The partially toothless Gary Mullis lisps his way through “Recitation on Roy Acuff”, with subtle country-swing accompaniment that almost brings a tear to your eye. And, finally, there’s Thoth, the elfin Chris Kattan look-a-like who rips on the violin while jumping around in loincloth and ankle bells, wailing in an otherwordly patois as he heals the Earth one streetcorner at a time. I’m sending my demo tape. Anthony
@ www.keyofz.com

V/A - “Stayin' at Mike's” CD 24/67:03
After three throwaway new skool punk tunes, this disc finally gets going with "Can't Cum" by the Volts. These folks rock, rule and make the plaster shake from the walls. There is a sick desperation to the voice, a frenzy to the drums and an overall vibrating quality to the track. The Thirteens kick out "The Harder I Swallow" with an equal ferocity, recalling the '80s SoCal sound. The vocals are declamatory and searing, a touch of Suicidal Tendencies when that band was still good. The Sparkles song "Gun Wins Again" recalls jazzy experimental weirdness like Victim's Family and No Means No, with some extra strangeness to make it truly unique. Resonator, the Half Empties, Scared of Chaka, Regular and Gina Go Faster also contribute some cool stuff. The rest of the tracks are pure new skool cookie cutter music. Mark
@ King Bee, PO Box 1164, Denver, CO 80201

V/A - “Strength Through Oi!” CD 22/50:09
Sounds was one cool British music zine 20 years ago, and their editor Garry Bushell put together the original series of Oi comps, of which this volume may be the best. It has a couple excellent spoken word pieces by Garry Johnson, including “Dead End Yobs”. The pair of Toy Dolls tracks here were the first I heard from that prolific band. Infa Riot’s “Riot Riot” and “We Outnumber You” were the best songs they ever did. “We’re Pathetique” by Splodge, and “Running Riot” by Cock Sparrer are exceptional too. Classic stuff that stands the test of time remarkably well. Mel
@ www.captainoi.com

V/A - "Supertones Surf: Modern Surf Band Spotlight" CD 29/77:13
Fifteen bands (Nebulas, Bitch Boys, VonRippers, Cocktail Preachers, Diamondheads, Retroliners, Monsters from Mars!, Sharkskins, Metalunas, ZPS, Estrume'n'tal, tsmf, Brainwashers, Mighty Surf Lords, Bustin' Surfboards) each do two songs (except for the Mighty Surf Lords, who do only one): one Supertones' track and one original composition. Ok, I'm hardly a surf instrumental expert and can claim no prior knowledge of the Supertones' existence. However, judging by the original pieces, it sounds like the bands manage to make the covers their own. You'll find the classic sound here as well as injections of ska, metal, punk, and '60s garage. I especially like the dark moodiness of the VonRippers and the psychosurf of Brazil's Estrume'n'tal. Lily
@ www.gollygeerecords.com

V/A – “Thank You” CD 11/65:34
A somewhat belated celebration of their 50th release, featuring unreleased tracks from such TR (and post-rock) stalwarts as Fridge, Explosions in the Sky, Kammerflimmer Kollektief, Rumah Sakit, Tarentel, and Parlour. Despite the variety of styles, the release as a whole flows along quite nicely, even when you have a diverse lineup like the above. Each track has a corresponding piece of artwork in the booklet as well. Puts your average “label sampler” to shame. David
@ www.temporaryresidence.com

V/A – “The Boss Tuneage Instant Singles Collection Vol. 2” CD 23/65:30
This is what a comp should be about. The bulk of label comps focus in on the bands that are on the label, and therefore usually a particular style of music that label favors, not to mention the fact that 90% of the stuff can be found on regularly issued discs. This one takes six bands that you are unfamiliar with from far flung places in the world and puts out good information on them, then gives you 3 or 4 songs from each so you can get a good sense of what they’re about. This label, based in Japan and England (no, I don’t understand that either), intended to do one of these every six months, but it looks like it’s going a bit more slowly, and that’s too bad. You’ve got some good Japanese pop punk from Baby Little Tablets, Belgian band Innerface does a great cover of Blondie’s “Hangin’ On The Telephone” and produces decent melodic punk with good hooks. Beauty School Dropout is from Scotland, and although they broke up a couple of years ago, it’s still nice to hear some tunes from this band that might have been a good fit for the Crackle! label. It’s also priced to move, packaged in a 7 inch sleeve at a 7 inch price. Sure, stuff like this can be hit or miss, and you notice I didn’t say something about every band, but it’s better than 99% of the other comps out there, and worth picking up this and other editions of the Boss Tuneage singles collections. Steve
@ Boss Tuneage, PO Box 74, Sandy, Bedfordshire, SG19 2WB, UK

V/A - "The Creatures Wanna Dance" LP 19/57:00
Down and dirty melodic guitar punk with a variety of sub-genres represented. The Drivers do instro-surf, Brain Eaters are Cramps-like, The Reeturners play pop-punk, and their "Cemetary Girl" is a real highlight here. The Elektras are two chick guitar players with a guy drummer (who wears a mask) playing short fast '80 style punk. Each band gets a pair of tracks, including Rodrguez, Hi Tops, Pot Belly, Los Banditos and Grizzly Adams Band, all from Europe. Mel
@ www.swindlebra.de

V/A – “The Cretins Wanna Dance” LP 18/56:00
Another pretty cool compilation album from this German punk label, though not nearly as good as their more rockin’ and garagier “The Creatures Wanna Dance” release. This one features mainly Ramones-y punk and other old-style pop punk, but some lamer new-type pop punk tracks are also included (courtesy of the Apers and the Retarded). Based on these two collections, there seems to be a whole new crop of fun German punk bands that are now in the process of displacing earlier waves of hardcore, emo, and Oi groups, a trend that is generally to be welcomed. My faves here include the totally rockin’ Scumbag Roads’ cuts, songs by the Reekys and the Dirtshakes, and the Cave 4’s surf-style instrumentals. It kind of amazes me that there are still so many young punk groups popping up all over the place, but that’s the way it’s always been with cool underground r’n’r subgenres. Jeff
@ www.swindlebra.de

V/A - "The Daisy/Tiger Records Story: Everybody Come Clap Your Hands!!" CD 25/65:41
I feel like this issue should be called "The History Lesson Issue" because I've had several re-issues of some brilliant but pretty obscure stuff that needs to be put into a little context. But there isn't anything better than a comp that digs into the vaults and brings back to life some great music that's been lost to time. The Tiger and Daisy labels were the brainchild of Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller, who are probably best known for writing songs recorded by Elvis Presley ("Hound Dog" and "Jailhouse Rock", among others), the Coasters ("Yakety Yak"), Ben E King ("Stand By Me") among tons of other huge hits. In the early 60's, they decided to start their own label and both Daisy and Tiger Records were the result. Eleven singles in total were released before Leiber and Stoller folded the labels, but before they called it quits, they recorded some great material, including original versions of songs leter made famous by others; including the brilliantly soulful "Go Now" by Bessie Banks, which was later made famous by the Moody Blues and "Bossa Nova, Baby" which Elvis made his own. They also began enlisting the songwriting talents of Ellie Greenwich and Jeff Barry, who would be instrumental in the Brill Building sound that Leiber and Stoller later made famous with their Red Bird label and groups like the Dixie Cups and the Shangri-Las. Other talent the label discovered were Dee Dee Warwick (Dionne's sister) and Van McCoy, who was in part responsible for disco with his huge hit "The Hustle" in the 70's. Great songs just never found their way to the radio, "Big Bad World" by Cathy Saint is as great as any girl group song of the period, but was released the same week John Kennedy was shot; others were lost to the familiar story of trying to break in as an independent label. This is a great comp of two sorely underrated labels, and well worth getting. Steve
@ www.sundazed.com

V/A - “The European Pop Punk Virus Vol. 2" CD 28/68:06
I've said it before, and I'll say it again: thank goodness for Stefan Stardumb! His label out of the Netherlands is keeping pop punk alive for the masses, especially with the end of Mutant Pop and the change in direction at Lookout over the last couple of years. They've released great bands from Europe and also picked up several from the US that were having difficulty finding labels, keeping the careers of bands like Darlington and the Groovie Ghoulies alive. This compilation has bands from Scotland, England, Italy, Sweden, Denmark, the Netherlands, Switzerland and Yugoslavia, and they all have one thing in common, great three chord pop punk. Song styles range from snotty Queers stuff to simple Ramones 1-2-3-4 punk to Go Go's new wave pop. Some of the better known bands include the Travoltas, Dirtshakes, The Apers, and the Sonic Dolls, but it's the depth of this CD that makes it worth picking up, not a bad song among the 28 on this disc. If po punk is your thing, then there are a ton of great bands to discover here. Steve
@ www.stardumbrecords.com MP3 Download

V/A – “The Gearhead Records Smash*Up Derby” CD 24/63:18
Sure, this sampler showcases the Gearhead sound (which is, for the most part, punk in the rock or garage vein), but I wonder if the label held back a little when choosing the representative tracks. The only bands that really stood out for me were the New Bomb Turks, “Demons” (what’s up with the quotes in their name?), the Nads, and the Dukes of Hamburg—but even then, I suspect they have better songs. Included are three previously unreleased tracks by the New Bomb Turks, “Demons`” and the Hypnomen—probably only vital for completists. Lily
@ www.gearheadrecords.com

V/A – “The Giant Rock ‘n’ Roll Swindle” CD 21/70:39
You’ve seen the posters, you’ve worn the shirts, now buy the CD! Don’t know what all these bands are supposed to have in common (besides Obeying the Giant), but this is more varied than your usual compilation, with various styles of punk (International Noise Conspiracy, Softball), some indie (Modest Mouse, Icarus Line), and a bit of beats from the likes of Peaches and BS2000. Most of this is at least listenable, and usually more besides (though at least a few of these tracks, such as INC, are available elsewhere). Plus the main (selling?) point to this CD is the satch of bonus goodies on the enhanced CD portion, featuring info on the bands as well as (and more importantly) the whole “Obey” (formerly “Andre has a Posse”) campaign, from history and inspiration to a “Do-It-Yourself” guide to make your own “Obey” stencils/stickers. David
@ www.forkinhand.com

V/A – “The Great Stems Hoax” CD 19/64:23
The best thing about doing a tribute record for an obscure band is that no one is going to get terribly upset if you bungle the execution. “The Great Stems Hoax”, a tip of the hat to minor Aussie punks The Stems, is far from a bungle. Nineteen artists, most of them as small-scale as The Stems themselves, gather to pay tribute via a series of noisy, vibrant, and completely enthusiastic covers. The result is a thundering garage record that stands up just fine outside of the “tribute record” context. Much of this has to do with the strength of the original material, but the interpretations are right on the money. The Hands of Time turn in an organ-laced full-Nuggets version of “Tears Me in Two”, and P76 make “At First Sight” sound like it was written in Athens in the early 80s. The strongest songs on the record are the proper garage numbers, and the interpreters keep the acid-eating spirit alive. Chump Change drops wheezing harmonica into their Birdsong take on “Make You Mine”, and The Levels mainline pogo-punk for a revved up “Man With the Golden Heart”. “The Great Stems Hoax” stands on its own as a thrilling collection of garage and psych-rock. Familiarity with the originals couldn’t be more irrelevant. J Edward
@ www.wizzard-in-vinyl.com

V/A - “The Harder They Come” soundtrack 2XCD
This 1972 motion picture from Jamaica and its soundtrack, featuring Jimmy Cliff’s memorable title track spurred the popularity of reggae in the U.S. It’s no wonder, since some of the 60s greatest music was coming from Jamaica, but was unknown in America. The Maytalls’ “Pressure Drop” and The Slickers “Johnny Too Bad” were life changing experiences, and any music fan who heard them was likely to be hooked on discovering more of the island’s treasures. This reissue adds another full disc of classics, including reggae’s first two international hits, “Israelites” by Desmond Dekker and The Aces, and “Double Barrel” by Dave Barker and Ansell Collins. Other ultra-classic tracks added for this incarnation are Toots & the Maytals’ “Pomp and Pride”, and Eric Donaldson’s “Cherry Oh Baby”. Also added are tracks from other great 60s Jamaican groups like the Melodians, Uniques and the Ethiopians. Quite a package. Mel
@ www.hip-o.com

V/A - "The Hope I Hid Inside - The Emo Diaries - Chapter Ten" CD
This is the second Emo Diaries CD I have reviewed, and like the first it is slightly inconsistent with some brilliant pieces and some that are merely filler. Emo is much poppier and much less dreamy nowadays than compared to my college youth. In fact I'd be hard pressed to call a vast majority of these songs emo. The stripped down 4th track "The Light is Such a Beautiful Sight" from Sweden's Sounds Like Violence is a stand-out track to me in it's uniqueness and depth. Pretty much any of these songs could become MTV staples at any moment. Sharon
@ www.deepelm.com

V/A - "The International Language of Love" CD 16/42:14
A nifty four way split CD featuring pop punk bands from Europe, each performing four songs. This starts off with England's Zatopeks, who take their cues from the Queers. Their songs alternate between snotty punk pop to harmony filled Beach Boys influenced stuff. Next up are the 20 Belows from Denmark, who are a speedier version of the Kung Fu Monkeys. How can you not dig a band where the singer sounds like they're 12 years old! They're followed by the Apers out of the Netherlands, who produce more of that snotty Queers sound, and do it well. Last up is Twentyearsold from Spain and, yes, it's more Ramones influenced pop punk, with a decided emphasis on pop, full of great harmonies and perky tunes. Overall, it's a great overview of European pop punk, with some really fun summertime, driving with the top down tunes. Steve
@ www.whoaohrecords.com

V/A - “The Laurie Records Story” Volume 1 CD 29/71:57
Laurie was one of the more robust American labels of the early ‘60s, with the huge successes of Dion & the Belmonts and the Chiffons. They are represented here, along with post-Beatles bands like Balloon Farm, Royal Guardsmen and Music Explosion, showing how well Laurie survived the British Invasion, when a lot of American indie labels didn’t. The group that I’m really glad to find here is Dean and Jean, whose four great tracks here include “I Wanna Be Loved”, which I’ve been looking for a long time. The fourth track from the rockin’ R&B duo, “Goddess Of Love” is a total find, a great lost gem in the vein of Mickey and Sylvia. Great music and a booklet with liner notes with lots of fascinating info. Mel
@ www.acerecords.co.uk

V/A – “The Laurie Records Story Vol. 2 – The Ernie Maresca Years” CD 26/65:17
Well, this one’s a bit of a disappointment. Maresca wrote “Runaround Sue” and “The Wanderer”, which were huge hits for Dion and the Belmonts, and several of the other songs on here sound like attempts to capitalize on that success. Very similar chord progressions and vocal arrangements hinder some of the material, and other songs are just schlocky overblown productions with too many strings and that crappy early 60’s sound that tried its best to melt rock with Perry Como. Don’t get me wrong, there are some fine songs here. “Please Don’t Tell Me Now” by Dean and Jan is a great girl group style song with sultry scorching vocals. Bernadette Carroll’s “Try Your Luck” should have been a classic along the lines of any number of Dusty Springfield hits and Jimmy Clanton’s “Tell Me” has a great beat that you can’t help but tap your toes to, and there are other fun songs here. It’s just when you hear the Chiffons on a heavily orchestrated song like “Up On The Bridge”, full of strings and crappy horns, you can’t help but feel a bit let down. Still, as with all the Ace releases, you’ve got a bunch of hidden gems, some excellent liner notes, and a lot of great material that hasn’t seen the light of day in decades. Steve
@ www.acerecords.co.uk

V/A – “The Northwest Kicked in the Nuts” CD 25/68:59
More than two dozen female-fronted bands outta the northwestern United States, from Montana to the Rock and Roll Promised Land of Seattle-Tacoma-Portland. From speed-metal to death rock to Runaways tributes to great fuzzed out garage pop to blazing punk, pretty much everything heavier than the Oly-style Sleater Kinney crowd is here. Heck, the only band that’s missing from this is the Triggers! This comp’s from the tougher side of the estrogen experience! All rock and roll and punk and pissed off- check it out! Jesse
@ Last Chance, PO Box 42396, Portland, OR 97242

V/A - "The Rocky Horror Punk Rock Show" CD 19/57:00
Yes, it's 19 bands, each taking a turn on a song from the Rocky Horror Picture Show. A lot of punks in the 90's found a home and friends at the threatre when the film was being shown in theatres all over the country at midnight on a Friday or Saturday night, but I'm not sure that's a valid excuse for making something like this There are some pretty well known bands on this, like the Ataris, Groovie Ghoulies, Me First and the Gimmie Gimmies , and Alkaline Trio, and some decent versions of songs, like Stunt Monkey's take on "Fanfare/Don't Dream it", the Ghoulies version of the film's signature song "Time Warp", and a couple of others, but in general it's disposable. Steve
@ www.springmanrecords.com

V/A – “The Sound of San Francisco” CD 17/50:53
One label’s vision of the best of what’s currently happening in San Francisco. As is pretty much the label’s MO the selections range lean more towards the rockier side; even the usually more garagey Flakes are given a “thicker” sound (which doesn’t quite suit them, though at least it doesn’t sink them either). There are a couple of rawk outfits that bring back less-than-pleasant memories of the pay-to-play club scene of the late 80s/early 90s (so of course they’re among those who get two tracks to their name instead of one). Still, you also get good (and varied) rockin’ from the likes of the aforementioned Flakes, Boyskout, and our good friends the Coachwhips. David
@ www.alive-totalenergy.com

V/A - "The South Bay Complication" CD 26/74:05
I don't think I've ever had a compilation with 26 different bands in my hand where I've never heard of a single one of them. Not one. And there's some pretty good reasons for that; first off, they all seem to be relatively new bands from Southern California; second off, many seem to have recorded their songs in various basements or god knows where to achieve their craptastic sound. There are a couple of tunes on here where it sounds like the band actually went into a studio, like The Pacific's big guitar pop turn, the vocal jam band ugliness of Ellie are among the few that come to mind. There are a bunch of sloppy punk bands on here, my favorite is probably the lofi Banana Explosive, but this thing frankly is all over the place. You name the style, and it's on here, which means you'll probably find something to like, and probably a lot to hate. Again, I prefer this kind of thing to a straight label comp or one with a theme, but name, there is a lot of shit to dig through on this to get to the few decent tracks. Steve
@ www.otikrecords.tk

V/A - "Third Strike, Punk Rock Strike Volume 3" CD 22/70:34
Another pop punk comp from the gang at Springman; what makes this one (as opposed to other label samplers/comps) somewhat unique is that many of the bands are relative unknowns for the most part. With the pop punk scene falling deeper into the darkness of obscurity with each passing day, a comp like this should be welcome because it shows there are still bands out there working some solid 1-2-3-4, Ramones inspired melodic punk territory. But so many of the bands are working such familiar and generic sounding material that you feel like you can skip over song after song without missing much. So there's nothing ear shattering here, but bands like the Travoltas, Groovie Ghoulies, and the Gambits anchor a decent, albeit familiar overview of the scene today. Too bad, because I was hoping to discover something here. Steve
@ www.springmanrecords.com

V/A – “This Is Your Establishment” CD 25/78:56
A benefit comp for the Center for Constitutional Rights, which is dedicated to protecting the rights of poor communities, this has the pretty standard range of punk acts on it, doing the standard mix of hardcore political punk mixed with some more melodic stuff. Among the bands included are Dynamite Boy, Rufio, Good Riddance (Russ from the band is one of the guys who runs the Lorelei label), and lots of unknown bands. Not everything here is political in nature, so you don’t have to be too scared of too many cliché ridden material, and overall it’s not a bad comp, plus it’s for a good cause…meaning if you want to buy it, fork over the dough for a new copy. Steve
@ www.loreleirecords.com

V/A - “Totally Damaged” CD 30/72:52
Label samplers can be a dull affair, but not when the label is England’s Damaged Goods, who specialize in garage rock and punk, and always seem to have more than their share of girl-bands. There are well known artists here, like Manic Street Preachers, Billy Childish, Cuban Boys and Revillos, but I really enjoyed discovering some cool new music from Homescience and Twister. Mel
@ www.damagedgoods.co.uk

V/A - "Underground Screams" CD 26/73:08
All of these bands are unsigned, and there is plenty of variety on this compilation. Two of the better bands are ska bands; Warren Li Young does a very traditional instrumental ska song called "Cocaine Ska", inspired by the film "Scarface" and Las Cabriolas also do a nice ska turn. Another impressive band is the C-86 inspired Skyflakes from Japan, who mix nice indie pop and some harsher guitar sounds. James Leste takes a turn at Smoking Popes style pop punk, and The Clarendon Hills do a great job at sloppy lo-fi '77 style punk. The last band worth a special mention is Dead Letter Dept., who could take a Screeching Weasel tune and make it sound like an original. There are also more than your fair share of marginally decent emo pop punk bands; none of which knock your socks off, but are listenable. It's nice that a label took the opportunity to dig through piles of demos and give these bands a little wider audience. I don't think there's anyone likely to break out of the pack, but I'll make an effort to keep an eye open for a couple of bands here. Steve
@ www.asianmanrecords.com

V/A – “Urbs in Horto: A Chicago Indiepop Compilation” CD 19/60:45
That the first sung lyric on this compilation is “I’m a stormtrooper/looking for my Death Star” could function as a terrible, terrible omen. Coupled with the presence of the word “Indiepop” in the title, and “Urbs in Horto” is working two strikes before it is two minutes old. Miraculously, the rest of the compilation is totally engaging. Eschewing all of the clichés that usually sink indie rock (twerpiness, cutesy posturing, saccharine melodies), Urbs n Horto is instead a compelling crossection of pop music from the Midwest. The bands selected are mature without being staid. They write fully-formed pop songs, rather than just hammering out vague ideas. Listen to the way the violin rises up in Butterfly Child’s breezy “Girl on Fire” or the wild-eyed Daniel Johnstonnisms of “UFO Disaster” by Written in the Sand. Though titled with cliché verbiage, “Urbs in Horto” offers a surprising amount of engaging pop. J Edward
@ www.johannsface.com

V/A - “VampiSoul: In Search of the Cool, Volume 1” CD 19/39:00
From the same folks who did the bang-up reissue job on the Joe Cuba set writ up elsewhere in these pages comes this. A fine, fine, superfine 19-track sampler, from what appears to be a bottomless mine of R&B/Latino/Afro dance jams from the 60’s and 70’s at VampiSoul’s disposal. Top of the batting order is a hilarious Sam The Sham/Johnny Rivers derangement of “Searchin’” by a young and precocious Sly Stone. Other early musical snapshots by future greats here include a Northern Soul-like track from Barry White, and a great Hammond organ-fueled blast thru “Shotgun” from Billy Preston. Joe Bataan’s “Johnny’s No Good” is a neat shoulda-been-a-hit of early 70’s social relevance ala Norman Whitfield’s work with the Temptations. Hot sauce dancefloor fillers are liberally scattered throughout, like cuts by Willie Lobo, Black Sugar (mind the wahwah, guys!), Ray Barretto, and Monguito Santamaria’s low-rider-conscious “El Dorado”. Other cuts tread just on the dubious side of camp, like the Ricardo Ray Orchestra’s Latino take on “California Sun”, Claudine Longet’s Francais recitation of ‘Ain’t No Mountain”, and Eden Ahbez’s borderline racist “Mongoose”. Even space-age lounge lizards get a futurismo nod, such as on the cut by Sexteto Electronico Moderno, and especially “Casa Forte”, a Swingle-Singers-meet-Stereolab-in-the-Mission track by Opa. MLH
@ www.vampisoul.com

V/A - "Vans Warped Tour 2003 Compilation" 2XCD
Yeah, the Warped Tour is pretty lame. Each year there are a lot of crappy bands, with a few bright lights to break up the monotony. This 2-disc compilation is a perfect representation of that sad fact. "The Suicide Machines" rock out with "Your Silence", super fast and astoundingly loud. Punctuated by a brilliant monologue about the apathy of the average American, this tune is both smart and powerful. And that's about it for the first disc. The rest is new skool garbage and shitty pop punk. Disc 2 fares a little better, with tracks by the Unseen, Pistol Grip and Missing 23rd. The majority is dreck, however, from such highly overrated acts as the Bouncing Souls, Dropkick Murphys and Lagwagon. Mark
@ www.sideonedummy.com

V/A – “Velvet Tinmine, Volume 1” CD 20/61:05
The first of what I hope will be many forthcoming compilations of obscure and not-so-obscure nuggets from the early ‘70s glam era. During the post-‘60s and pre-punk period, glam was almost the only good rockin’ to be had, and it came – as the liner notes make clear – in four varieties: 1) art-school glam (Bowie, Roxy Music), 2) hard rockin’ stuff with pop hooks (Sweet, Slade), 3) teenybop glam (Gary Glitter, Bay City Rollers), and 4) diverse combinations of two or more of those subgenres (Alice Cooper, T-Rex). The second and third categories are especially showcased on this CD. Say what you will about the dopey shag haircuts, polyester clothes, and platform heels, but you can’t argue with killer tracks like Iron Virgin’s “Rebels Rule”, Crunch’s “Let’s Do It Again”, Hello’s “Another School Day”, Shakane’s “Love Machine”, or Big Wheels’ “Shake a Tail”. Very cool, and long overdue. Jeff
@ www.cherryred.co.uk

V/A - "Vital Idol" CD 22/71:50
No, it's not a Billy Idol tribute, thank god. It's the Idol Records 2003 sampler, and they're a label that's doing an increasingly great job of putting out some seriously good power pop and melodic rock material. There are a number of bands on here that I wasn't too familiar with previously, like the lead off group Chomsky, the Fags, Sponge, and others. What they mostly all seem to have in common is a reliance on 80's new wave mixed with 60's garage and punk to hone in on a guitar rock sound that's heavy on melody and catchiness. The highlights are the previously mentioned Fags and their multilayered Cheap Trick influenced powerpop, the Deathray Davies, and Centro-Matic's Replacements like swaggering pop. This is a label sampler I can really dig into; with a couple of bands I'm familiar with and like that would actually get me to explore more of the label's releases. Steve
@ www.idol-records.com

V/A – “What a Concept: a Salute to Teenage Fanclub” CD 24/74:21
As far as I’m concerned, Teenage Fanclub is the greatest pop band of the last 30 years, and no one is going to convince me otherwise; so it’s fitting that the highlight of this tribute is by Superdrag, arguably my second favorite pop band for at least the last 10 years, playing possibly my very favorite TF song “Radio”. Nothing on this record really stands out as bad or even weird – all are pop acts, and most kept it pretty true to the originals. Some of the standouts include Ike (“Sparky’s Dream”), Cloud Eleven (“Ain’t That Enough”), Cliff Hillis (“Can’t Feel My Soul”), and Jet Lag (“The Cabbage”). Other than it just not being that engaging of a listen, my biggest complaint is that they only included one song off of “A Catholic Education”. Anyways, you could take or leave this release, but at least it had Superdrag on it. Jake
@ www.notlame.com

V/A – “Win A Date With Tad Hamilton Soundtrack” CD 15/53:48
Opening with a dance track by some guy or band called BT, it gets heavier on the singer songwriter thing, with the ilk of John Mayer on this. Highlights, such as they are, include Liz Phair’s lightweight track “Why Can’t I”, the Thorns nifty cover of the Jayhawks “Blue” and Bleu’s energetic power pop tune “I Won’t Go Hollywood”. But it drifts into more of the Mayer thing than anything, and although they are fine songs for the average teen movie patron who’d pay their parent’s hard earned money to see this, I just can’t get too into most of this disc. Steve
@ www.sonymusic.com

V/A - "Wizzard Brew - A Worldwide Pop Compilation Vol. 1" CD 20/66:56
Featuring bands from the US, Australia, Japan and Norway, this is a pretty solid representation of some of the criminally lesser known power pop and jangle pop bands around today. Among the better songs are P76's "Headed Straight For The Sun", which opens with a familiar sounding "Girl of My Dreams" guitar riff and keeps the early 80's power pop going throughout, Einstein's Sister's "Jealous Time", which is a live acoustic version that echoes Squeeze, the punkier Sunbeams from Japan, Jeremy's Byrdsian "Walking With You", Movin' Jelly's (what an awful band name!) new wave keyboard touches on "December Girl", and Martin Luther Lennon's speedy guitar Yum Yums style mix of pop and punkier guitar work on "I Own the World". Most of the material here is solid, although some gets a little too far off into the more psych elements of the current pop scene for my tastes, but even on those songs, you can hear the freshness of the tunes. A fine comp with many bands that should be on the top of the charts. Steve
@ www.wizzard-in-vinyl.com

V/A – “Words Will Never Be Actions” LP 19/45:30
Always good to see another vinyl compilation in this CD-driven era, especially one that seems to have been inspired by the “Bullshit Detector” series: vinyl-only, politically motivated punk (with some nontoxic spoken word), fold-out sleeve, etc. Of course the danger of with submission-driven compilations is that they run the risk of becoming the vinylized version of that most feared of creatures, the compilation tape, and after a promising beginning the record starts to slide a bit. Still, side two picks up in terms in consistency, so it ends on a positive note. David
@ http://communities.msn.co.uk/departurerecords

V/A - "Wylde Psych" CD 26/78:40
The 4th installment of the series offers a full disc of authentic American '60s garage-psych. Chocolate Moose, from Dallas, sound like they could have been an opening act for the Jefferson Airplane on "Take a Ride". The comp is primarilly original material, though a couple of covers are strong tracks, Oscar & the Majestics doing "House Of the Rising Sun, and The Blues Inc. with a heavy take on Love's "7 and 7 Is". Waters were a Louisville band that featured some wylde wah-wah guitar and phased harmonies. An interesting collection of obscurities with extensive liner notes. Mel
@ www.arfarfrecords.com

V/A - “You Call This Music? Vol. II” CD 37/71:48
East Arcadia has an unreleased track on here which is much better than the band's current album. The Bad Religion copycat song structure is still there, but harder guitars and a madder approach make for a more entertaining ride. Toys that Kill continues to grow in powerful ways with "Little Bit Stranger". These guys have only gotten stronger and catchier since the name change from FYP. Nazis From Mars is goofy electro-punk fun. "Animal Farm 2084" is the kind of song the Toy Dolls used to do so well--but of course, the Nazis put their own wacky spin on it. Kill the Scientist's "I saw a pair of anarchy shades for sale at the mall next to a picture of Bush smiling" makes the Nazis track seem like the Carpenters. This disc is a real deal for lovers of weird, creative shit, and a lot of it is previously unreleased. Mark
@ Geykido Comet, PO Box 3743, Laguna Hills, CA 92654

V/A – “You Make Me Lose My Mind: Fuzz, Flaykes, & Shakers Vol. 7” CD 18/44:28
You probably don’t need a PhD to figure out that this is volume 7 of Tony the Tyger’s FFS series of 60s garage. Not too much in the way of frenzied garage rave-ups, but mainly mid-tempo garage tuneage with some wistful numbers thrown in for good measure. Highlights this time around are courtesy of the Outsiders, Lazy Eggs, and Pictorian Skiffuls (the latter inducing Merseybeat flashbacks) among others. Not earthshattering, but a solid enough compilation with enough worthy tunes to make this worth checking out. David
@ www.dionysusrecords.com

V/A – “You’re Still Young at Heart – A Tribute to Shelflife 50” CD 19/61:18
Considering the nature of most label compilations, any that have more good songs than bad are usually a success in my book. If that is the criteria I am to base my review of Shelflife’s “You’re Still Young at Heart” disc, then it would have to be a resounding victory on their part. To mark their 50th release, the label had some of its bands (19 to be exact) record covers of songs previously released by other bands among their first 49 releases. Among some of the highlights were the Maybellines, Brideshead (I particularly like the horns on this track), Den Baron, Carnival Park, Sometimes I Wonder, and Majestic. Most everything else was at least ok, with only a couple of stinkers in the pot. Definitely worth checking out if you like good clean pop music and aren’t familiar with any of the labels bands – most likely you’ll come away with at least a couple of groups that suit your tastes. Jake
@ www.shelflife.com

V/A - "Zipped Up and Down (Under)" 2XCD
Zip Records is a great label in Australia (and now thankfully with offices in San Francisco, which should help with distro here in the US), primarily featuring great power pop acts from down under, although they do have a mix of bands on the label. This release features one disc of bands on Zip, and a second disc full of other pop gems from around the world. This is a couple of years old now, much of what was unreleased at the time is now available on regular releases by the artists, but it's a great primer for those interested in the Big Star/Beatles/Raspberries style pop tunes. Among the better bands appearing are the Chevelles, Safari Season, Merrymakers, P76, Rubinoos, Michael Carpenter, Mark Bacino, and the Bellows. Both discs are consistently good mixes of power pop, soft rock, and bubblegum and show the genre is full of more than just derivative sound alike bands. Steve
@ www.ziprecords.com

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