Various Artists – Notes from Thee Real Underground 3xCD

Various Artists
Notes from Thee Real Underground 3xCD

I have no idea how many independent bands there are, but I’d estimate in this country alone there are probably tens of thousands. Even if you were to pick and choose, you could fill dozens of CDs easily. So why, I wonder, if Invisible Records wanted to compile “thee” underground bands, would they fill three CDs with only about 25 or so artists? Regardless, d.A. Sebastian sent me this compilation long ago, and when I re-discovered it recently, guilt forced me to give it a few listens and review it.
Surprisingly, the music here is quite good. Representing the more goth, industrial, and gloom-rock as opposed to traditional indie rock, I wouldn’t think I’d enjoy these songs. The only artist I knew, after all, was Sebastian, and his two gruff guitar-rock songs were on his latest solo album. But amid some throw-away bands that I imagine wear black leather and play to black-garbed crowds exclusively, I found some real gems of hard rock, industrial, down-beat, trip-hop, and hybrid bands that I liked quite a bit. But since we have three discs and over four hours of music, let me just give a few highlights, and we will skip the lowlights.
Scarlet Life uses cool rhythm effects and live and computerized beats for an interesting post-industrial mix. A lot of bands on here are obviously heavily influenced by Depeche Mode, but The Narcissus Pool pull off their homage the best. Jakob impressed me with their blast of blaring Killing Joke-like industrial rock, centered around a spy-feeling guitar riff that made the song. Tub Ring have a terrible name, but their music and weird bleeps of guitar/synths turns their intriguing, quirky rock style into a pretty cool mix. One of my favorite tracks is Vodka9’s “I Kissed a Killer,” a dark, weird track about meeting a killer in an AOL chatroom. Karma Sutra, like their name, are sultry and rather techno-soulful with far-Eastern leanings.
The Lack do a really weird, freaky song called “Cereasin” that repeats “I love Charles Manson” over and over. I kinda like the interesting beats on the more mellow song by Lorin Richards, and Caligari kinda reminds me of the Cure. There’s kind of an Irish feel to The Follow’s “Standing on the Edge” that I like a lot. It has a great big feel to it. Ceoxime also has some cool Eastern feel to its sorta up-tempo trip-hop songs. Lifesexact is kinda trippy, with loads of beats and Bis-like shout-outs on “Nine (if you’re lucky),” and SMP does a kind of funk-rock Beastie Boys-like thing on “Analogue Assassins.” The most poppy song here is “Jody Stone” by Mistle Thrush, a nice, more laid-back song. Flowers & Machines close the whole thing with a deep-voiced moody track, “Sail Away,” that’s really quite good. Reminds me of the Tea Party in a way.
There are so many good underground bands, I can’t begin to wonder why Invisible Records used two or three songs from the same artists on these albums. I only commented on bands I enjoyed (or enjoyed at least one song from them), and there are a lot of mediocre to terrible songs here. Although every third or fourth track is really good rock, I highly recommend listening to each disc independently and mixing other music between. In three discs, more than four hours, this is way too overwhelming. All or most of the artists could be just as well represented on one disc. Regardless, it’s worth hearing.