"Incidentally, the New York Post describes this album as ‘thick with cellos'."
Polyvinyl Sampler 2004
Yeah! I love sampler records! There is the cast iron guarantee that something will be hidden within the album's sleeves that'll be, (for a week at least) the best thing around. You can show off to your heart's content to all your mates about "this ace new obscure band" you are championing, certain in the knowledge that they won't have heard it, AND with the added advantage of having to listen to only one track. Perfect. Plus this particular sampler has a beautiful picture of an Alsatian gambolling through a snow laden landscape. Lovely.
It hits the ground running with Volcano's "I'm Green", a strung out teenage wail, accompanied by some anguished guitar playing. Mates of State are next, with a song entitled "La'hov", a screamathon over an organ which I love. Its wacky alright, and that's a good thing. The album notes that accompany this song, (notes, incidentally, that shall be quoted throughout this review as illustrations of very funny bad journalism) state this is a 'criminally irresistable track'. matt pond PA are next with "Closer", a nice reflective love song given a certain je ne sais crois with it's cello backing. According to the accompanying sleeve notes, I shall be struck, 'like love at first sight'. I'm waiting. Rainer Maria's "The Double Life" is a reflective windswept lament with a spine tingling chorus, a truely beautiful song. I might go and buy this as it's that good.
Braid start "The New Nathan Detroits" with a very fuzzy, itchy moog infested groove. (Sorry, no more descriptive prose from now on, I promise). Very reminiscent of Stereolab, but with some impassioned, insistent singing that gives this song some extra thump. Aah... back to those sleeve notes for Aloha's "They See Rocks". I am informed that "They See Rocks" is 'spiritually inspiring and (an) arguably danceable post-rock opus'. Why should I argue? The song itself kicks up some dust and thumps along in a pleasant enough way. It's true that it seems a lot more light hearted than music of its genre (difficult post-punk), but that's all I'm able to say about this track. Kyle Fischer's "the Slow Drag" is great but bloody difficult to describe, I shall admit that much. Suffice to say that somehow, given the presence of xylophones, fuzz pedals and a leaning towards an enthusasm to explore jazzy rhythms it somehow escapes these (admittedly awful sounding) constraints to create something rather wonderful. Incidentally, the New York Post describes this album as 'thick with cellos'.
AM/FM's "The Death They Claim" is a complete change with its poppy stroll, pleasant enough for a sunny afternoon's listen. Sunday's Best bring us "Don't Let It Fade", another nice pop song (goddam, these Yanks are getting really winsome this year. What's happened? Someone dusted off their old Shop Assistants lps?)
Good-oh! Bring on Rainer Maria again! "Soul Singer" is a more muscular piece than "The Double Life", but nonetheless arresting enough for me to want to check them out further. Friction blast off with "Squelch", (a great title), coming on for all the world like Amon Duul 2. And it all sounds pretty cool, but, hang on sherriff, what's this? According to the liner notes they split up ten years ago. I must contain my liking to a posthumous yearning then. The Red Hot Valentines keep things up-tempo with a fizz-bomb of a song in "All You Get". It sounds like an inept Sugar, (by which I mean it's charming and fun, honest), a little thrashy in a Lemonheads kinda way. Hurrah! It's time for some more stupid liner notes, this time accompanying "Lake Placid 1986" the track donated by The Ivory Coast. Get this. This song is 'an ambitious blend of sentient, creamy-smooth vocals and Washington D.C. bred post-core harmonics'... eh??? I thought it was just a great thrashy pop song with a strange middle eight, but no matter; I think, on this evidence, and despite a journalistic hijacking, Ivory Coast are great.
Saturday Looks Good To Me donate "Alcohol", a pleasant and jangly skip-along not a hundred miles from Belle & Sebastian or The Shangri Las. Mates of State reappear with their mad noise, this time entitled "Ha Ha". I tell you, I love this lot, they are bananas. I have no idea really what they are on about, and I don't care. Of Montreal are up on the oche with "Disconnect the Dots", a happily hummable electro-led song. The word 'beautiful' is bandied around ad infinitum by the singer in this song. You can probably guess how it sounds from that fact alone. Good though, in an Ultra Vivid Scene kinda way. Aarrgh! Silly liner notes again! This time from Harp magazine. Read this. 'At every turn, Kinsella approaches cliched situations with the kind of original and timeless songwriting that elevates Owen to an unexpected and compelling level'. Now, if you didn't know that Owen was the band name, and that Kinsella must be the songwriter you'd thing this Kinsella guy was doing something rather sinister to his mate Owen, now wouldn't you? Oh, so you want a description of the song? "Declaration of Incompetence" is an absolutely fucking lovely balad about lovers problems. Good. Want to hear more. Nuff said.
Penultimately, its Pele with "Egg" (sounds like I'm talking about a surrealist painting by Magritte, does it not? What about while we are about it, "George Best with Toast"?). Egg is a gambolling affair, slightly shambolic and rather twee. It reminds one of mid period Durtitti Column. Bon divertissement.
Rounding up the sheep back in the fold is Fred Thomas, with "Get it Together", a winsome ballad accompanied that sees organ pedals dolefully pressed. Now, there you are. I don't need to say any more. Get it, and check out further stuff by Rainer Maier, Mates of State and Owen, I'd say. (But why listen to me?)
Words: Richard Foster.