By Various Artists
To celebrate their one year anniversary, Leeds-based record label Philophobia release a sixteen track compilation of some of the bands they've worked with over the past twelve months, with a few additional bands thrown in for good measure.
The ratio of high-quality tracks is encouraging, especially considering this is a snapshot of the predominantly local scene, but there are two songs that stand head and shoulders above the rest, and those are 'Whippersnapper' and 'We Like To Party.' 'Whippersnapper' by the always-entertaining The Bundesrats, takes the carnival beats of Madness, and blends in shunting guitars and a bass-voiced frontman who does a fine impression of an opera singer. 'Whippersnapper' is that rarest of things: a fiercely individual song, that actually works.
Angry Sandwich's 'We Like To Party' is equally accomplished, marrying a funky electro thump and gleefully nonsensical lyrics, with the usual indie trappings of stop-start riffs and poised vocals. It's an irresistibly groovy electro/indie mash-up, with a dash of lyrical silliness that'll have you grinning from start to finish.
Close behind, but lacking in that final, ingenious twist, is a handful of songs that take the indie-rock formula, and introduce elements from different genres, to create something that can stand out on a compilation of predominantly indie and light-rock based material.
Little Nemo's semi-spoken, uber-cool indie drawl gives 'Backwards Waterfall' a touch of Dirty Pretty Things' laidback cool. However, hand claps and whining, Euro-pop synths put a uniquely funky spin on its otherwise conventional indie. The Spills' offering, 'Oh My Days' has a similar starting point to 'Backwards Waterfall,' with plenty of inventively addictive indie riffs you'll need a crowbar to remove from your frontal lobe. But, 'Oh My Days' then ups the 'fun' factor with buoyant drumbeats and a sticky, pop-infused chorus that ensures this is a blast to listen to from start to finish.
'Cryptic and Fictitious' by Imp is clearly on the same page as The Spills and Little Nemo, but its scuzzed-up guitar lines, throbbing bass and penchant for sloppily layered gang vocals, gives this song a sleazier character than the aforementioned songs.
Despite the prevalence of indie-rock/light-rock songs, 'Some Things Still Matter' does engage in a brief flirtation with electronica, with contributions from St Gregory Orange and LadybiRds.
The lurching 'Pretend Scared' is the most experimental of the two, with an extended instrumental intro of chiming high notes and flatly buzzing keys that make for more hooks than your average pop song. It's so catchy, that when St. Gregory Orange brings in the vocals, you can't help but feel he's ruining a good thing.
LadybiRds, on the other hand, plough a more ambient electro furrow that isn't a million miles removed from Canadian four-piece Metric. Frontwoman Teeter Sperber even has a young, tentative timbre that's similar to Metric's leading lady. Reverential organs provide 'Andy Lex' with a mournful base, while lashings of lullaby chimes gives it a hopeful glimmer to create that classic, heartbroken-but-optimistic vibe. A great, atmospheric electro song, even if the children's-choir-esque vocals towards the end will have you curling your toes.
Beyond 'Andy Lex,' there's only one other song on this sixteen track compilation that features a female vocalist, and that's the skittering indie-rock of 'The Wash' by Jeremiah. It isn't a particularly strong song in the context of this compilation, but its chorus of female vocals makes it stand out from the thirteen other indie-rock songs being offered here. In the context of 'Some Things Still Matter,' 'Andy Lex' successfully stands out from the crowd.
Other strong songs that are worth tracking down are The Compression's 'For A Fact,' 'Claustrophobia' by Hoodlums and One Day, After School...'s 'Simple Life Equations.'
'For A Fact' is a hard-rocking sucker punch, with choruses packed with reverberating bass and meaty riffs, but with some bristling surface riffing that means this is one heavy song with a seriously cutting edge.
'Claustrophobia' is one of this release's more experimental offerings. It alternates between funky verses of knocking percussion, and not much else, and choruses of sweeping guitars and euphoric vocals that'll lift your spirits and plant a smile firmly on your face. The only minor niggles, are Hoodlums' flirtations with strings, which are completely superfluous on the verses, and not half as moving as Hoodlums clearly believe them to be, on the bridge. Apart from that, there's very little to pick fault with when it comes to 'Claustrophobia.'
One Day, After School...'s 'Simple Life Equations' starts off as an acoustic ballad decked out in twinkling chimes that give it a dewy, lullaby feel. Initially, when One Day, After School... bring in the electric guitars, 'Simple Life Equations' falls frustratingly short of that power ballad, emotional high due to the repetitive lyrics. However, One Day, After School... then step up the pace in spectacular style, layering on the crashing riffs and thumping drums in a dramatic sweep of stadium-sized sound, that'll make you forget their shaky start.
'Another Polluted Version of Heaven' and 'Unwestern Hemispheres' both have the makings of great songs, but are sadly held back by unspectacular vocals. 'Another Polluted Version of Heaven' has a spring in its step, thanks to rollicking drums and twangy guitar. However, you'll wish Andy And The Big Shark had put that extra bit of energy into the vocals, so you could decipher what this song is about, rather than just enjoy its riotous bounce.
Lapels' 'Unwestern Hemispheres' features a kooky guitar pulse that gives the verses character to spare. Unfortunately, the vocals are all over the place, which wouldn't necessarily be a bad thing, if frontman Tim had a stronger voice. As it is, he struggles to make himself heard above the rest of the band, and as a result he often seems to be rambling inconsequently in the background. However, after the midway point Tim is joined by backing vocalists, and you just may find yourself singing along, now you can decipher what Lapels are actually singing about.
A few questionable inclusions come in the form of 'One Day,' 'Honeycomb' and 'Half A Song (Dial And Repeat).'
Sponge Wings' 'Honeycomb' is a mind-numbingly repetitive piece of experimental indie that'll batter a relentless path into your frontal lobe. A fuzzy, lo-fi base provides the backdrop to endlessly-looped riffs and trippy vocals. You probably won't want it in your head, but 'Honeycomb' will burrow its way in there, all the same.
While originality is usually a positive thing on a compilation, helping a song to stand out from the crowd, By By's 'One Day' is just plain odd. Their frontman rambles tunelessly away to the sound of someone bashing away at an acoustic guitar, equally tunelessly. Lyrical insights include "one day we'll die / our brains will not function / function / function / functiooooooooooon." 'One Day' is proof that being different is not always a good thing.
Final track, 'Half A Song (Dial And Repeat)' by Jonny Yellow and Thee Platypus Monk has all the formality of a jam session between friends, as the two band members trade amiable banter over a handful of casually strummed chords. There's a couple of tongue-in-cheek lyrics, and a smattering of hooky guitar slides, but you can't quite shake the feeling that, as 'Some Things Still Matter's last chance to make a positive impression on the listener, it could have done better than this.
'Some Things Still Matter' is a great introduction to up-and-coming acts and, at £2, it's worth buying for The Bundesrats, Angry Sandwich, Little Nemo, Imp and The Spills' songs alone. On the negative, the album features far too many indie-rock/light-rock songs, and a few more electronic offerings, and perhaps some metal or pop songs, would have made for a much more interesting and eclectic collection. Halfway through the album, fatigue threatens to set in, as much of the material is in a very similar vein. But, for a mere £2, it's well worth picking up a copy and getting better acquainted with your local music scene.
Ska/Rock band from Wakefield, West Yorkshire
4-piece indie-rock from Wakefield