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V ... is for Various Artists

Review Archive:
Various Artists

Don't Know When I'll Be Back Again: A Compilation Benefiting American Veterans of the Vietnam War
Well, as Queen once said, another compilation bites the dust. Don't Know When I'll Be Back Again has a great message behind it (a benefit for Vietnam vets) and has a solid line-up of bands -- Q and Not U, J. Robbins, Death Cab for Cutie, Cable Theory, and Ted Leo are the heavyweights -- but as a listenable disc it's dead in the water. The idea here is get some of the best indie rock bands and solo artists to cover '70s rock hits by the likes of Neil Young, Led Zeppelin, the Beatles, and Credence Clearwater Revival. It's a good idea in theory, and a handful of the 20 artists manage to pull it off, but it's a pretty hard gimmick to maintain through a whole album. Death Cab for Cutie's version of John Fogerty's "Fortunate Son" is about the best song here, and even then it's nothing to write home about. Donate your money to the Vietnam Veterans Association and bypass this inconsistent compilation CD. Exotic Fever Records JS 4.15.2003

Mob Action Against the State
Mob Action… is a two-disc set recorded at last year's annual Bay Area Anarchist Book Fair, presented by the anarchist collective bookstore Bound Together. Featuring the likes of Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Jello Biafra, and Christian Parenti, this spoken word compilation has some excellent moments. One is Biafra's 13-minute rant, "We've Got a Bigger Problem Now: War, Terrorism and Beyond," which cuts into Bush's foreign policy but is careful to remind us that just because we're not "with him" doesn't mean we are automatically "with the terrorists." As always, Biafra's humor and helium-pitched voice only add to the appeal. Another highlight of this double CD is Craig O'Hara's piece, which begins as a connector between punks and anarchism and ends up as a freeform rant about communists, handguns, and rednecks. O'Hara, best known as the author of The Philosophy of Punk, should get his own spoken word comedy disc. This guy is a hoot. Ferlinghetti's "Greedy Blues" and "Death to the State" are among the most somber and hard-hitting speeches, with his strange voice and ultra-serious tone. That's only the tip of the Molotov on Mob Action Against the State; chock full of interesting words about the anarchist dream of a freer and more just system for all. Alternative Tentacles JS 4.15.2003

Nasty Habits: Live on 88.9 WERS
The line-up on this collection of live radio performances would have any self-respecting extreme metal/hardcore fan drooling like one of Pavlov's dogs. If names like Origin, Shadows Fall, Knut, God Forbid, and The Dillinger Escape Plan don't get the saliva flowing, nothing will. Nasty Habits has been on New England's airwaves since 1983 and is highly regarded as one of the most influential metal/hardcore radio shows around. Maybe that's why most of these bands deliver raging, amped-up performances with the kind of intensity that can only be captured in a live setting. Sure, some of the bands included, like Unearth and Poison the Well, are almost impossible to enjoy, even in their true form (read: no studio trickery here). It's the aforementioned genre lords like God Forbid who plop your ass right down in that studio, forcing you to bang your head (or shake it in disbelief) along with radio DJs who are no doubt wearing ear to ear, shit-eating grins. WERS JS

Plea for Peace Take Action

About 30 cents from each of these comps sold goes to a national suicide hotline, a great cause to be sure. Sub City (a division of Hopeless Records) has made an effort to have benefit charities attached to most of their releases, but I can't help but wonder why they do it (to sell records?) and why they can't afford to donate more. A couple of bucks per CD would be more honorable, considering most of their releases probably only sell a few thousand copies, at best. It takes a shitload of money to put a dent into a problem like suicide, why not go whole hog and really make a difference? Even at two bucks a pop, there'd still be room for Sub City to make some cash to keep their label thriving (not to mention all the cash they make off their non-benefit releases on Hopeless). To their credit though, they sponsored and promoted a tour by the same name for the same cause. Okay, enough complaining -- this compilation features 28 generally solid bands. My personal highlights are a subtle remix of Cave In's "Jupiter," the title track from their latest masterpiece; the straight forward power hardcore of Thrice; another goofy Atom and His Package tune that had the kiddies dancing; the acne-medicated. power-pop punk of the Selby Tigers; and a live version of Dillinger Escape Plan's "The Mullet Burden" that is jaw-droppingly tight. Suspiciously, the Dillinger track includes scream samples and, by the sounds of it, has to have at least some overdubs (or my brain will explode). Other names that might get the juices flowing are Hot Water Music, Shai Hulud, Boy Sets Fire, Seam, Strike Anywhere, The (International) Noise Conspiracy, and Grade. As with most comps, this is a hit and miss mix of previously released and unreleased or rare material. Sub City JS

Rebirth of the Heavy
This heavy compilation from the folks at Bully Magazine collects 16 of today's most groove-laden bands. The focus here is on the stoner rock end of things, with bands like Sons of Otis, The Sabians, Fireball Ministry, and Novadriver leading the cannabis-permeated charge. It's not all stoner, though; there's also the inclusion of bands like Ratos De Porao (raging hardcore/grindcore from Brazil), Electric Wizard (Eyehategod-influenced ear damage) and Antiseen (GG Allin-ish punk dreck) to keep things interesting, if not slightly annoying. The intention here is to prove to skeptics there is no shortage of good bands out there; and while this compilation proves that an abundance of heavy bands are locked into a killer groove, it also confirms there are always a few who are finely tuned in to the suck. Bully Magazine JS 7.2003

The Road Less Traveled: A Hardcore Compilation
One of those really low-budget compilations that looks like the high school project of some young buck with a severe lack of quality control. Eighteen bands of wildly varied sound quality, giving the auditory result of all over the map volume -- nearly intolerable on headphones. What isn't at all varied is the musical scope of these bands, including some of the worst common denominator of "evil" metalcore bands around. Even more insulting is the decision to tack on good bands like Botch and Old Man Gloom right near the end of this 62-minute groan festival. It's as if to say, "Hey listen to an hour of scourge of the earth phoney-core, and then check out two really great bands right when you are about to vomit." Advice: Buy a Botch or Old Man Gloom album and leave this waste of materials to the landfill. Through These Eyes Records JS

US Pop Life Vol. 12: Tribute to Fort Thunder
"Random Slice of Life from Ft. Thunder -- Some Bands Who Played At" Grammar challenged compilation titles often spell trouble. Such is the case with ... ah, that fucking title. Let's just call this the Fort Thunder comp. Fort Thunder is a commune of young artists and musicians in Providence, RI, who "turn detritus into fresh décor without end," whatever the hell that means. Even more confusing are the majority of the house bands on this mess, with the inclusion of some touring bands that have played at Fort Thunder. The majority of bent noise and goofy sound effects on this compilation will go way under most people's heads. Even attempting to get down to the level of bands like Deerhoof, Lightning Bolt, Quintron, Lesser, Marumari, Pixel Tan, The Music Tapes (and on, and on, and on) is a thankless task. The only listenable submissions come from the UK's Red Monkey and Brooklyn's Orchid, and a special treat comes from The Fucking Champs; -- what a welcome pleasure to finally hear their instrumental metal offerings. The US Pop Life compilation series is an important one, but this volume is a throwaway. Steer clear of Fort Thunder, the venue and the compilation. Contact Records JS

US Pop Life Vol. 13: Northeast New Core & Parallel Universe of Exterior and Interior
These compilations could be useful for indie music fans overseas. They also come in handy for North American squares (like me) that find it impossible to keep track of all the new bands in what is the current hardcore/emo/indie scene. Has this genre been given a new name yet, like "rocksteady" or something? Please, some information about what to call this stuff would be much appreciated. Anyway, featured here are xbxrx, The Lapse, North of America, Enemymine, Ex Models, Convocation of ..., Retsin, The Apes, and ten others. Laughs aplenty come from the openers, The Rapture, who claim PIL, Television and Happy Mondays as influences but sound like a dead ringer for The Cure, right down to the fake British accent. Come on guys, who are you fooling? The US Pop Life series is a good way to catch up on a scene that's left a lot of us in ignorant bliss. Contact Records JS

The Whistle of the Missile Video
Hey, the do it yourself hardcore video, how times have changed! I used to obsess over these things for hours on end, often into the wee hours of the morn, straining my ears and eyes over putrid sound quality and shaky camera work to see bootlegged videos of live bands. A small lifetime spent enduring crowd noise louder than the bands, and motion sickness from watching the spastic visuals. To their credit, Bifocal Media have made a concerted effort to get the sounds and sights up to the best quality expected from such a production. Still, it's difficult viewing from start to finish, and the bad film school short movies between each band keep the whole experience at a dullard's pace. Not one of the included short films was worth the time, and many had me groaning in boredom. Worth a watch are live songs by Converge, Party of Helicopters, Twelve Hour Turn, Dillinger Escape Plan (proof that they are for real), The Episode, Engine Down, and His Hero Is Gone. Yup, that Slayer video filmed by the professional football camera crew is looking pretty good right about now. Bifocal Media JS

With Literacy and Justice for All: A Benefit for the DC Area Books to Prisons Project
This compilation CD is a benefit for the DC activist group that sends reading material to prisoners. An excellent cause to be sure, hammered home by a zine/book featuring the inspired writings of those on the inside. The reading material also documents a convincing and well-researched critique on the US penal system, and steals the show from a competent but dull collection of songs on the CD. Indie rock, metalcore, punk rock, acoustic folk and emo are all thrown onto the disc, without much rhyme or reason. The bands range from interesting (the poppy folk punk of Marion Delgado and Respira) to fucking annoying (the grating metalcore of Virginia Black Lung, Hiretsukan and others). It's the same old story as with most compilations; finding diamonds in the rough is an exhausting chore. Record labels doing benefit projects would be better off finding one solid band willing to back the cause and do a release just with them. The days of buying compilations are long over for many, no matter how admirable the cause may be. All of those sick of compilations should instead send donations of books, zines. or money to DC Books to Prisoners Project – PO Box 5206, Hyattsville, MD, 20782. Exotic Fever JS 1.18.2002

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Also in Song ...
Song Archive

JS - Jason Schreurs

MW - Mark Whittaker

KG - Kenny George

ZH - Zachary Houle

MH - Melissa Hostetler

RG - Ryan Gowland

CS - Cameron Smith

CR - Chuck Reith

CO - Cory O'Malley

BD - Bruce Duncanson

JR - Jessica Richman

GW - Greg Wilson

DG - Daniel Garret

JT - Jessie Turner

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