Various Artists – A Gainesville Compilation – The Art of Macrame

Various Artists
A Gainesville Compilation – The Art of Macrame

I’ve never thought much of Gainesville, Fla. It may be a bit of a generalization, but I always considered the place to be a sort of redneck paradise with only a major state university (University of Florida) to validate its existence on a map. But with the advent of a couple of fine bands, namely, Hot Water Music and The Mercury Program, I had to adjust my opinion to include the possibility that just maybe there was something there that I was missing, or, at the very least, that life in Gainesville included something more than the opportunity to spot extras from Deliverance or drink copious amounts of alcohol at one of their legendary off-campus frat parties. So it was with a little bit of nervous excitement that I popped this CD into my system, hoping to uncover some hidden gems.
There are few certainties in this life, but I thought for sure that I would go through my entire existence without ever having to hear the likes of Vanilla Ice ever again. But then again, I had never run across the likes of Shermy D. The self-proclaimed ‘Lyrical Master’, opens up this 13-band compilation documenting the Gainesville scene with three of the wackest songs ever to be put to tape. It’s one thing to parody the style and delivery of the sorry boor behind “Ice Ice Baby” for the sake of some humor, but these three songs go well beyond the tolerance of any sane individual. That’s not parody, that’s torture. If by some fluke Shermy D were ever to go mainstream, it would set the hip-hop world back a decade.
After that colossally weak opener, I thought I was in for a real train wreck of a listening experience, but thankfully the next group, Dblwide, managed to switch gears and pull up short of catastrophe. Their wild and psychedelic brand of rockabilly on “Devil’s Red Cadillac” gets things cooking quick with big, echoing guitars and some nice whiskey-drenched vocals delivered with Reverend Horton Heat-type intensity. Squeaky comes off as a less bombastic Jawbox with tight, angular guitars and melodic vocals that manage to keep the ship steering straight after a rocky start.
One Drop, however, take the ship’s wheel and push ahead full-throttle. The Incubus meets Groove Collective meets The Roots rock/funk/hip-hop hybrid displayed on “Money” and “Revival” is an impressive display of devastating musical prowess and fiery poetic passion. I would like to hear this vocalist sing a bit more rather that relying so heavily of his formidable flow, but on the whole, One Drop are an electrifying listening experience with bucket loads of talent and a penchant for writing complex, yet accessible material. They are definitely the highlight of this compilation.
The female-fronted Product offer a nice change of pace with three catchy, hook-driven pop-rock songs, while Nux Vomica‘s simple brand of fuzzed-out stoner rock left me cold and disinterested. Studio Expo (also the name of the studio where many of these artist recorded) weigh in with four eclectic tracks that run the gamut from the quirky acoustic pop of “Two Ton Pig,” to the tender alt-country pickings of “Mandolin,” to the hilarious, all-too-short, foot-stomper “Jugband,” which sounds like it belongs somewhere on the O, Brother Where Art Thou? soundtrack. They finish things off with “Transistor 88,” a bouncy indie-pop tune that sounds similar to the likes of Death Cab for Cutie. PopCanon follows with some dark winding guitars and dramatic vocals, while Crustaceans‘ lightning-paced punk-pop rocker “Supertoober” adds a much needed kick in the ass to the festivities. Fat Vacuum and Squat‘s thick-as-molasses Melvins/Mudhoney approach to grunge sounds a bit dated and both suffer from a lack of any discernible melody. Into Barbie closes things on an unfortunate sour note with the derivative metal-laced ‘”Just a Fish”.
I have to give credit to Nook and Cranny Records for putting out a compilation that attempts to illuminate a scene without paying deference to any one particular style or trend. It’s difficult enough to put together 25 tracks of music, but it becomes much more complex a venture when the scope of music is widened rather than narrowed. Unfortunately, the most admirable quality of this compilation is also its greatest failure (talk about irony!). There is just no flow to this record, no continuity. The moods and textures are just too drastically different, too disparate and convoluted to make for cohesive and appreciable listening. Their efforts earn my respect, but not my money.