As a rule, compilation albums are shit. They’re for people who don’t really like music – they’re for people who want something to put on in the background (see the Chillout section of your local store); for gift-buying (birthday, Christmas, Easter, Father's Day and Mother's Day); or they’re for playing in the car. Generally speaking (and yes, I’m being elitist here) they are for people who don’t buy records very often. Every now and then these rules are broken and I swallow my pride and actually love a collection that somebody else has put together and Warner Music’s ‘Future Vintage’ has done exactly this for me.
The concept behind this album is simple. Warner Music decided to drum up some interest in some of their ‘alternative’ back catalogue by making a compilation of some well-loved and lesser-known songs. The thing is, no matter how easy it is to be cynical about how this album came together – it doesn’t change the fact that it’s absolutely brilliant. How rare is it that you find a compilation where you instantly like the songs you don’t yet know - and already love over 5 songs? And when I say love, I mean love. Take Fountains of Wayne's 'Radiation Vibe', for instance. Or the Flaming Lips' 'She Don’t Use Jelly'. The same could be said for the Violent Femmes' 'Blister in the Sun' or They Might Be Giants' 'Birdhouse in Your Soul'. I’m feeling guilty for not immediately thinking of some of the other songs, but that just serves to highlight the strength of the collection on offer here.
The album is like being taken on a journey through your lifetime, picking out some of your best-loved songs from your most-loved albums and then reminding you how much other great music is actually out there. Cibo Matto contributes with the lovely 'Sunday part II', Paul Westerberg with 'MamaDaddyDid' and the Lemonheads with 'Into Your Arms'. The album also contains oddities like the wonderful 'Mini Skirt' by the Kronos Quartet – a one minute bizarre trip and Mr Bungle's 'Air Conditioned Nightmare'. Sometimes it is good to be reminded that there is more to life than the three-and-a-half-minute pop song and these songs do the job nicely.
Like all collections, there will be one or two songs that you’re not entirely sure about. I’ve never been a huge fan of the Webb Brothers, Spacehog, or Faith No More for that matter. It is credit to the compilers, however, that they’ve managed to select songs that are actually half-way decent by these artists. Take Faith No More’s 'RV'. Not the obvious choice for inclusion, but it works all the better for its selection.
The best thing about this album is that it contains enough hidden gems to satisfy any alternative music fan’s curiosity – whilst keeping your headphones locked on your head with some undisputable classics.
To return to what I said earlier, compilation albums are shit. This one isn’t. Buy it now.
8Andrew Farley's Score