Various Artists – Regime Change: Thirteen Tales From the Pennsylvania Southwest

Various Artists
Regime Change: Thirteen Tales From the Pennsylvania Southwest

I’m skeptical of most compilation albums simply because they are generally collections of unrelated music, usually as some type of label showcase. I understand them as a vehicle for a record label to get the word out about all its bands, but the results are often less than stellar. Even if the quality of songs included is fairly consistent, there is the issue of varied styles that don’t necessarily mesh well together. The scattershot presentation frequently leaves the listener with a disjointed disc with only a few favorites.

Fortunately, Bill McAdams – guitarist for the Hi-Frequencies and the man behind the scenes at Teen Regime Records – seems to have found the best combination of elements for his compilation of Pittsburgh area bands called Regime Change. While you could call this effort a label compilation in some senses, the bands showcased here aren’t signed to the label; rather, the main commonality is that they all represent Southwestern Pennsylvania. However, it’s clear that McAdams took special care in not only putting together a compilation of local bands but also in selecting songs that would work well together as more of a cohesive album than a mix of vastly different tracks with no rhyme or reason.

The bands and song choices on Regime Change are still quite varied when it comes down to it, but they certainly fit collectively. There’s everything from the foot-stomping rockabilly of the Working Poor’s “Go Away” and the 60s style pop of We are Wolves’ “Welcome to the Childhood Home of Andy Warhol and Dan Marino” – which, despite the long title, has a catchy chorus. A 1960s-style recording aesthetic is present throughout thanks to McAdams’ home studio where all these tracks were recorded, which works well with the airy pop and rock tunes on the album.

With such carefully selected songs, Regime Change is full of highlights, depending on where your tastes lay. Shopping’s new-wave approach on “Dan-nat-dun-uh” works well before the Breakup Society’s “Lower Expectations” and Jack Watson’s “New Material,” a pair of Kinks-inspired numbers. Paul LaBrise and the Trees’ offering “By the Light of Day” is a slower, acoustic ballad and is the perfect predecessor to Kevin Finn’s spare but beautiful “Gray Machinery.”

If you enjoy indie pop or rock, especially with a bit of a 60s flair, you will surely find some new favorite bands on Regime Change. Beyond offering some great new music, this disc gets high marks for being one of the few compilations to have an organic enough feel that it comes off like a complete album. Bill McAdams should write a book for all other record labels on how to select songs for a compilation album. If you purchase only one collection this year, Regime Change should be it.