Various Artists – US Pop Life, Vol. 13: Northeast New Core – Parallel Universe of Exterior and Interior

Various Artists
US Pop Life, Vol. 13: Northeast New Core – Parallel Universe of Exterior and Interior

Contact’s on-going series of American rock compilations returns with good ol’ unlucky number 13, a sure sign of some sort of impending something or the other. Doom, maybe, but that word just doesn’t seem to fit. Let’s call it a general sense of misanthropy, alright? Like, here are 18 bands from America and there just ain’t no telling just how many of them are as likely to haul back and punch you in the face as they are to play you their rock and roll music. Well, actually, I would hope that none of them would conduct themselves in such a lamentable fashion, but hell, listen to the Apes’ “Street Wars” (just f’rinstance) and tell me you can’t see them beating the piss out of you. Or just check out the sternum-cracking spazz-thrash-noise gurgle of XBXRX. This music and its progenitors can harm you deeply.
But I’m not being entirely straight with you, and for that I apologize. This compilation can’t be summed up as being entirely this or completely that, for the cohesion suggested by the authoritatively toned album title simply does not exist. I don’t know what exactly “Northeast New Core” is supposed to sound like, and after listening to this album I’m even a little bit less sure than I thought I was. I would say allegiance to some sort of post-punk or post-hardcore style is the most common connection between these groups; but then again, along side the Rapture’s Gang of Four-ish “Heaven” and the Ex-Models’ spastic remake of “She Blinded Me With Science,” you’ve got TW Walsh’s excellent folkish mope-rock “Kudos for the Player” and Avey Tare & Panda Bear’s characteristically incategorizable “Forest Children Risen.” To top off the confusion, a few of these bands aren’t even from the American Northeast; you’ve got Kentuckians, DC-Baltimoreans, Canadians, and even Alabamans. This issue perplexes me heartily, but let’s just chalk this one up to cultural ignorance and/or willful Japanese inscrutability, and move on to the music.
This music – hell, it’s good. Well, some of it, at least. With the exception of XBXRX, all bands mentioned above are quite delectable (sorry, those Alabamans may take the strudel in a live setting, but on record they’re always a bit under-whelming). The Lapse’s stream-of-consciousness lyrics and seemingly haphazard acoustical jaunt on “Secondhand Smoke” somewhat resembles the Red Krayola’s second album. The Oxes supply one of the more enjoyable songs from their generally lackluster debut record and thus acquit themselves well. The peerless Oneida represent with an outtake from their recent Anthem of the Moon album, and while “Mr. Clean” definitely kicks all sorts of shit from here to Yakutz, this psych-punk gem can’t quite match up to the stellar genius of the album it was left off. Tracks from Retsin, Convocation Of…, North of America, and Orthrelm are all equally worthy listens, but perhaps the most interesting sardine in this here tin comes from NYC’s Parkinglot. I’ve never heard of these guys before, but their track, “Earthquake Blues,” is a damn sight more perplexing than anything else on the disc (with the possible exception of Messrs. Tare and Bear). The Godz-ish “Earthquake Blues” could be a field recording of some retarded inner-alien that crawled up from the center of the goddamned earth; it sounds like Billy Joel with no budget, right ideas, and multiple massive head wounds. It’s also fantastic.
In fact, the majority of this comp. is solid; the only real missteps come from a handful of bands that shall remain nameless in this forum, and most of who should have known better. So in toto Japan’s Contact Records has put together another great sampler of contemporary American underground music. File this one alongside the Fort Thunder edition and you’ve got a quick primer to the music that matters the most these days. Contact’s been doing a commendable job, documenting the disparate scenes of unpopular music here in the States, and their compilations are easily justifiable purchases for foreigner and native alike. Just never, ever buy Contact’s Experimental Athens disc. Ever.