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Last year’s Smalltown America compilation, 'Public Service Broadcast #1', proved that compilation records, usually the bane of a reviewer's existence, can not only be good, but downright essential. Unlabel’s second compilation in a matter of months, the matter-of-fact-named 'un23' (which follows their excellent 'un17' comp'), goes one better. These bands aren’t just good, and this compilation isn’t just great; it's _so_ much more. Living without this is like breathing air devoid of oxygen, or eating nothing but mouldy breadcrumbs when there’s a juicy sandwich in the fridge. Basically, if you consider yourself to have any interest in music whatsoever, or more specifically rock music (although the term is only loosely applied in this instance), living without this is akin to not living at all. You're dead to music. Here's why...
The diversity on show here is unlike anything you'll hear anytime soon – you won’t find a better-balanced record, be it compilation or otherwise, in any store all year. The rough mixes well with the smooth, and the searing with the serene – the blissful, laid-back Sunday afternoon sounds of Hunter’s Loaf sitting pretty next to the boisterous, drooling rawk of Montana Pete's (perhaps appropriately-named) 'Ugly Band'. It certainly sounds like the work of men so unstable you'd fear their gaze if encountered in the dairy aisle in Tesco, let alone down some dark alley in a strange town. Joeyfat’s insane take on nautical history – _‘Drake Breaks Rank’ – is frighteningly good, literally, and they're followed by the quirky Box. Elsewhere, Unhome out-do The Beta Band with 'Pine Trees’, an alternative version of the track that originally appeared on a limited-edition split 7” with Papa M. Its repetitive, hypnotic nature is initially unsettling, yet soon it becomes as comfortable as Homer Simpson’s Lazy-Boy, although you may struggle to sit in it.
If it’s The Rock you crave, you’re in luck too – both Charlottefield and Headquarters supply vicious contributions, the former coming across like some crazed Dischord band that never was (but perhaps should be), but the star turn comes from the bizarrely-named Jason and the Astronauts, whose ’Passé Disco’, if let loose on primetime Radio 1, would piss all over Franz Ferdinand’s dancing shoes before beating the Scots to death with their own soggy footwear. ”This is my town, boy, you’re on my streets!” screams their singer. I, for one, won’t be stopping out after dark; if it's not enough that you may cross paths with Montana Pete, Jason and his gang are out and about, quite possibly carrying big sticks and flick knives.
You, however, should step out if needs must; the need being to track this down as soon as you can. (Take a bat, just in case.) It’s exciting, passionate, experimental, invigorating and – best of all – gloriously low-budget. Unlabel flog this for around six quid, and, on the basis of the quality here, are probably the greatest label in the land. No other record has reinstalled my faith in UK music as much as 'un23' has over the last year or so. Breathe the air; eat that sandwich; it's all good.
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