If you want a job doing properly, do it yourself. Like it says on the tin, Counter Culture ‘07 is the first of the counter culture series to be pieced together independently after previous joint ventures may have muddied quality levels somewhat, so this really is about as eye-poppingly good a recorded summation of leftfield pop going in to 2008 as you’re likely to get. Like, ever.
At 41 tracks long they’ve gone to some lengths to make this as broad a church as humanly possible, the two discs running the gamut between reverent folk, irreverent noise and lush pop opuses with seemingly the greatest of ease.
But really all this is just so much preamble to a porn flick, let’s just dive right on in - Woods’ ‘Be Still’ is a fine curtain-raiser indeed, thrilling with a dusty cough of tumbleweed fuzz and a chorus that drags its cowboy heels right out of the top drawer. Miracle Fortress bolsters his occasionally rudderless dream pop with a scythe-like bassline on ‘Maybe Lately’, and Soulsavers’ ‘Revival’ traces a weary gospel arc like ‘Knocking On Heaven’s Door’ produced by Pink Floyd.
I haven’t quite worked out why Glasvegas annoy me so much yet – maybe it’s the braying Scottishness of it all, perhaps it’s the witless anthemic fervour, either way I don’t like ‘Daddy’s Gone’ very much. Far more authentically fuzz-pop are Leeds’ Manhattan Love Suicides, at once naive and nihilistic with ‘You’ll Never Get That Guy’.
Over on disc two and Supersilent’s strictly for the pseuds, a seemingly haphazard collection of bips and glitches that may or may not warrant closer listening – whatever, I’m not going to bother. *Om*’s low-end drones sound mightily impressive on ‘Unitive Knowledge Of The Godhead’ which is roughly as anti-social as brontosaurs trying to hit home runs with newborn babies using their tails.
No Age are about the purest punk fix there is going these days, and ‘Everybody’s Down’’s a Herculean dose, while Battles’ ‘Atlas’ has lost none of its monstrous momentum ten months down the line. Wasn’t bowled over with Magik Markers’ glassy-eyed art-schlock as evidenced on last year’s _Boss LP, but the skittering, unhinged guitars on ‘Body Rot’ urge me to reconsider. And never mind Rufus ‘fucking’ Wainwright, how about Animal Collective does Judy Garland – or at least, that’s one of the thoughts you might have listening to Dirty Projectors’ ‘Police Story’. Much like the band itself, it’s pretty wild, but worth sticking with.
Get past the smirk induced by the rather absurd title refrain of ‘Rights For Gays’ and you’ll find a prime example of the inscrutable murk lurking at the heart of John Maus’ rewired ‘80s classicism. Ditto the sublime harmony parts on of Montreal’s typically depressive ‘Gronlandic Edit’.
Julian Cope comes on like Ringo Starr narrating an especially metaphysical episode of Thomas The Tank Engine on the excellent ‘Soon To Forget Ya’. Delirious punks Comanechi grind away with almost comical insistence with ‘My Pussy’; music to piss your parents off with if ever it existed – no wait, maybe that should be music to piss yourself off with. Is that good? Nyes.
Fucked Up is another apt description – ‘Year Of The Pig’ sounds like Mark Lanegan and Isobel Campbell times a squillion, full-on scary and not necessarily ‘all that’, at that. Holy Fuck turn in a heavyweight groove with ‘The Royal Gregory’ culled from their slightly disappointing album of late last year. And über-cool New Yorkers EFFI BRIEST sound like, uh, Bow Wow Wow, only not shit. Will that do?
All of which adds up to a horrid waffle of a review, but perhaps we shouldn’t act so surprised: even when it misfires, Counter Culture ‘07 provides a healthy talking point, thanks to its sussed inclusivity and some pretty nifty sequencing, and even the most cursory of spins will leave listeners with multiple directions to explore, which, surely, is exactly the point.
8Alex Denney's Score