Thursday, February 23, 2006

Various Artists / Rough Trade Counter Culture 05 / Rating: 7.2

"In this manner, this collection serves the noble mission of the tastemaker, graciously pointing the way towards the Promised Land of cool bands. I know your struggle, Rough Trade, and I salute thee."

As a certified music junkie I have multiple dealers. I also seek out other addicts who are not just a partner in a never ending quest for new music (which can also mean old records new to me) but who make me feel a little less pathetic when I can’t pay my car insurance yet have scraped enough cash together for a sealed copy of the 2nd Lee and Nancy lp.

Record clerks, older siblings, parents, friends, music publications, favorite labels, favorite bands these are all resources I have turned to in the past but few have been as dependable as Rough Trade.

The PFM review of Counter Culture reads exactly as it should. I wouldn’t change a word, the rating is reasonable and for any music fan who reads Pitchfork daily and or has over 30 indie: labels, bands, music blogs, and music publications bookmarked in their favorites folder, the Rough Trade sampler series should be required listening.

It’s a pain in the ass to keep on top of a music scene as mercurial as the indies (trust me, even after 8-14 hours a day I still don’t know a tenth of it) yet Rough Trade seems to have a tight grasp of it all and the kicker is they have delightfully refined taste. Consistency over a stretch of time is nearly impossible so in this aspect Rough Trade is the double stuff. To quote the inside cover of the Counter Culture booklet I too believe RT is the “John Peel of record shops.”

Mmmm…double stuff.

As PFM explains these cds aren’t exactly meant for more than a few straight through listens but they are spectacular tools for digging up your next favorite band. Matson Jones, Modlang, Good Shoes, 101ec6, Attack Formation, these are all artists I can’t wait to hear more from but I think my surprise favorite of the entire disc is a new Daniel Johnston track called “The Beatles”. It reminds me of an old and far out Built to Spill or Modest Mouse song worthy of a appearing on a greatest hits for either band.

For those on a larger learning curve the songs supplied by more well known artists such as Sleater-Kinney, Boards of Canada, Serena Maneesh, Fall, Franz, Lightning Bolt, Brodsky Quartet, Test Icicles, Six Organs, Brakes, Low, and The Long Blondes are all meticulous choices.

An indie music starter kit couldn’t be better stocked and with 50 tracks to choose from there is more than something for everyone. And record elitist types... I know you can' t know everything but this collection will help you fake it.

The only thing I love as much as the cds themselves is the care put into the booklet. Small basic blurbs about each track / artist are there for your reading pleasure but give yourself a few hours to do so. As with many of the Rough Trade comps the booklet in theory is wonderfully informative but it is damn near IMPOSSIBLE to read. I love the old school typewriter font as much as the next but placed over a busy collage of show flyers, record art, ticket stubs, store photos and the likes it creates an 8 page headache (18 total panels of hell on the eyes).

Those Rough Trade folks may have some of the best alterna-taste in the world but their graphic design skills spell DIY catastrophe.

PS: a full track listing can be found here.