Various Artists – NE vs NC: The Versus Series, Vol. 1

Various Artists
NE vs NC: The Versus Series, Vol. 1

Redemption Records has hit on two of the best area in indie rock right now with the first volume of their versus series, a double disc set of Nebraska and North Carolina artists. I’ve long wondered what’s in the water in Omaha, as bands like Cursive, The Good Life, and Fizzle Like a Flood continuously amaze. And you can trace the roots of popular indie rock to the early-90s college scene in Chapel Hill, N.C., so what better areas to focus on? You may find yourself a bit overwhelmed here, as 17 songs one a CD from each region is a bit much, but this is quite the undertaking.
On the Nebraska side, you get a hefty dose of the indie rock you may already know and love, including previously released tracks from The Desaparecidos, Cursive, The Good Life, and others. Then there’s some strong tracks from bands you may not know of, such as the herky-jerky post-hardcore of Her Flyaway Manner‘s “Remember Memory Walk,” the very tight and soaring quality of “The Distance Session” from Race for Titles, and the ultra-slick percussion and melodic guitars and keyboards on “In Your Door” by Shelter Belt. Other standouts include the rolling, bass-driven instrumental “Pacific Rim” by The Sound of Rails, the orchestral pop of Fizzle Like a Flood‘s “Don’t Go,” and the all-out punk of “Standpipe” by the unfortunately named H2NCH2CH2CH2CH2NH2. The closer, “Crusading to Regress” by Tie These Hands is another strong track, if a tad lo-fi by comparison.
Moving to North Carolina on disc two, many of the new faces in indie rock are represented, such as Fin Fang Foom, Sorry About Dresden, and The Scaries. Beyond those better known figures, there’s very strong tracks such as “Blankets and Sheets” by The Ladderback, an intense and driving post-hardcore track; Ali with an I‘s “Mixed Emotions” is a fantastic emo track, with driving guitar and drums and stellar vocals; “Anger Isn’t Always” by One Six Conspiracy is a high-powered chugging almost-hardcore track that kicks ass; and the straight-forward, 60s-themed rocker “Backwards from Ten” by Kid Icarus is very catchy. Disband‘s “The Worst Kisser in the World” is a nice hard rock track, and Brazilia‘s “Metal Makes a Beard Grow” is a furious hardcore/rock assault, loud and furious and excellent. And Cold Sides‘ “Zed’s Lament” is another example of the band’s unique, cold-sounding rock, odd yet intense.
On both discs, there are a few clunkers. From Nebraska, Nova Dinova‘s “State of Town” is too quiet and dull, the thick guitars on “His Blue Eyes” by Split Second are a tad overdone, and the surf-rock “First Class” by The Carsinogents. From North Carolina, I get the sense that The Sames sound the same as a million other bands from “Friends and Neighbors.” The mixing isn’t very good on One Amazin’ Kid‘s “Elisabeth,” but the song has a lot of urgency and nice vocals. “Others Like Me” by The Balance Affect is boring, however, and doesn’t fit with these other tracks.
This release was not done quickly. A lot of care and effort went into selecting the artists and putting together the packaging. It’s a fantastic look at two very different yet productive scenes that have turned out some of the hottest indie bands today. I’ll definitely be looking for more from several of these bands who are new to me. Whether you’ll know their names in two or three years remains to be seen, but for now, it’s a snapshot at the indie rock scene that’s remarkably well done. Kudos to Redemption.