Short Takes on Label Comps

Smooch Records
Various Artists – Sampler

Smooch Records is a San Francisco based label devoted to Denver, Colorado area artists. The label claims that the geographic isolation of the state keeps people in other areas from discovering Colorado’s bands. I think this is true for a lot of regions, and I admit I had only heard of one band on this sampler – Sixteen Horsepower. This sampler includes fifteen songs from twelve artists. Sixteen Horsepower gets two tracks, as does Slim Cessna’s Auto Club and Jim Munly.

The songs on the Smooch sampler are fairly varied, but many of them have a dark, almost gothic feel and range from Americana and folk to more rock oriented numbers. Andrew Douglas Rothbard’s “Bull in the Dell” is absolutely hypnotic while Sixteen Horsepower’s “American Wheeze” brings the dark Americana home with a building burn-off complete with accordion. My favorite track here is Slim Cessna’s Auto Club’s “Jesus is in My Body”. This song has the kind of low-end shake that makes your flesh quiver at high volumes and this live recording has the biggest impact of the bunch on this sampler.

Get it for free, by request only, from Smooch Records.

Gringo Records
Various Artists – Oh Yeah! A Gringo Records Compilation

This tasty Gringo Records sampler contains 15 tracks from the label’s artists. About half are previously unreleased material, the other half have appeared elsewhere. Regardless, the Nottingham, UK based label has a lot of great stuff to offer and although I’ve heard of some of these bands before this is all new to me. A good compilation – regardless of styles of music – is like a smorgasbord, you get to try a little bit of many things.

Oh Yeah! truly does give you a taste of everything. From the electrifying brilliance of Lords (“I Shook the Royal Throne”), Soeza’s French horn (“Make It”), and Designer Babies’ skuzzy blues and the kitchen sink (“You Go Hugo”) to the captivatingly moody Polaris (“Kissing”) and Bilge Pump’s deep groove of fractured rock (“Budda”), there’s tons to love here. It’s impossible to pick just one favorite. Amazingly, it seems many of these bands have been together for 5-10 years or more.

Who knew there was this much good stuff coming out of the UK right now? For just £3 you really can’t go wrong.

Red Leader
Various Artists – Red Leader Records Sampler

New York’s Red Leader Records also has a good handle on crafting a decent compilation – pack it full of songs and give the kids some stuff they probably haven’t heard before. You’ll find previously unreleased tracks (End of a Year’s “Bracer”), demo versions (Fire When Ready’s “Who Do You Think We Are” and “Nakatomi Plaza’s “Finish Line”), as well as alternate versions (Marathon’s “Closing Time at the Distortion Factory” and Dear Tonight’s “Dead Boys”) and live tracks (Fire When Ready’s “If You’re All OK”). Really, at 20 songs this sampler is about as chock full as can be.

But, I think the key word here for me might be “kids”. Most of the songs on this sampler are on the poppier, more melodic side of hardcore, punk, etc. Even way back when I was a young thing of 15 or 16 I’m not sure this kind of stuff would have appealed to me. I guess the more emotive side of rock just doesn’t move me. Melodic, sure, but overly dramatic or affecting and I’m out the door. I have no impression that the overall quality of these songs is lacking, this just isn’t my thing.