By Various Artists
This double CD is an awesome achievement. It is truly good stuff. By all reckoning, 18 different bands from one part of the country should make a complete pudding of an album. It's like "35 songs recorded on a Tuesday". A crazy idea. Just listen to the Leeds Bright Young Things CDs to confirm my thesis. Awful, aren't they?
The quality of this collection is the effort that went into compiling, sequencing and mastering the tracks. I don't know how much chicanery, arm twisting, blackmailing or plain opportunism went into the collection of tracks. But we have a result.
It's utterly listenable, it's exciting, it's definitive. And a nostalgic blitz for anyone with an interest in the area's bands in years to come. What if we had one of these for each of the major UK conurbations - Manchester, Glasgow, Liverpool, Bristol, Tyneside, the West Midlands, and so on? What a collector's dream that would be. A major work of reference. A rock and roll anorak's secret pleasure dome and a perfect conversation opener with "who's the best band not on this compilation, then?"
All but Utah Saints get two tracks. All but Utah Saints display their strengths and weaknesses (The Utah Saints track is the thinnest thing on the album - hardly any more than a bit of studio doodling really, but still good to listen to in the context). It's (almost) all white boys with guitars. Multicultural, socially inclusive and musically eclectic it isn't. But, dear listener, it's your problem if you haven't got other stuff in your collection. This set is perfectly what it is and you can't fault it for not being something else.
There is a good range across band styles, from Nursery and Katywithout at one end to Catalyst and Xi (Aeon on this compilation) at the other. From bedsit to dosshouse; from café bar to stadium; from Fiat Punto to Lincoln Contnental. You get the picture.
Personal favourites are Lorimer's scorchingly tight pop elegies and Being 747's faltering tear stained vocals. Mariko do a professional job, and Brazil, Mama Scuba, Katywithout and Nursery make me sit up and go for the sleeve to find out who it is. Visa, Four Day Hombre, Eighty Six, 5'4", Parisman and the Scaramanga Six all show off their best profiles. Mr Shiraz show off how much work they need to do to convert their steaming North of England Gas into something they can sell on the national grid. (singing and playing is wayward and the tempo's all over the bloody place). The most rock stuff isn't really my cuppa, but Catalyst and Aeon are on fine form. Japanaro, to quote the sleeve, are "trashy, messed up and in yer face" (not very good). But the track sequencing helps me get through the bits I don't go for, and lets me keep the thing running from beginning to end. The weakest are pulled up by the strongest - not the other way round. As I said: a great achievement. A tribute to everyone involved.
The truly stupid thing is the price: £3.99. If you haven't already bought six or seven to give to deceased relatives for Christmas, why not? While you're at it get one for yourself. And then go and give a pound to the bloke on the bridge near Leeds Met and buy a Big Issue from anyone who doesn't claim to be selling "me last one".