TEN YEARS IN THE TRENCHES - IVY LEAGUE RECORDS & MUSIC - Various Artists (Ivy League)
To some, maybe unfairly, Ivy League Records has always equated to The Vines.

Now, there might be nothing wrong with being The Vines. They've sold more than a million CDs and managed to pull their label/management company/publisher (that'd essentially be Ivy League on all counts) out of the financial hole in less time than it took to write the first line of "Highly Evolved". On the other side of the ledger, they'd played only a handful of live gigs when they broke (a cardinal sin in many eyes) and their singer's erratic behaviour (medically-induced and thus, not his fault either) attracted headlines like a bag of week-old prawns draw flies on a hot day.

It's no crime to have worked at South Hurstville McDonalds (hell, I'm eaten there) but I'm no fan of The Vines' music - it sounds like Nirvana being force-fed a strawberry Thickshake through a tube, although an early 7" single wasn't too bad - but even I felt a tinge of regret when I heard the sound of hipster knives being drawn as their follow-up album failed to make the same impression.

So do I sound like a hipster when I say that I like this Ivy League compilation despite myself? With some exceptions, I'm not a classic indie pop sort of guy, and gave up on the local yoof radio broadcaster when they handed over most of their airtime to hip hop, so of a few of these sounds I've experienced live rather than on the airwaves. But, fuck, most of it sounds ace over the course of these 70 minutes.

Ivy League's brain trust of Andy Cassell, Peter Lusty and Andy Kelly (all muso's, as it happens) have achieved something special by eking out a place for their bands at a time (late '90s) in Australia when live music was almost down for the count.

"Ten Years In The Trenches" is 22 tunes by 22 bands and covers the obvious bases and some more obscure ones. It's proof positive that Ivy League (aka Winterman & Goldstein in its management guise) doesn't start and end with The Vines (or co-managing the derivative Jet, for that matter.)

Anyone not watching may missed Ivy League giving Billy Childish and his Buff Medways their first substantial exposure in Australia. They're well represented by "Troubled Mind". I wasn't familiar with "Sunshine", the droning yet melodic pop psych gem by 78 Saab, but it's cool.. "2001" by The Monarchs is a reminder that they should have broken out all over. Even The Vines song ("Get Free") sounds good.

A few flat moments but strong rocking pop rules, for the most part. The City Lights remain a shinning star in the Ivy League cupboard, even with various members playing second fiddle to their "real" bands. Related band The John Reed Club's first single "Destroyer" sounds much tougher than when it was released (is it a remix?) The Meek show they had no respect for fitting into moulds with "Questions Overheard".

Relatively mainstream Ivy League successes like Youth Group (the "O.C." TV show cover song hit glossed over in favour of their own "Shadowland") and Josh Pyke get a run alongside hopeful new signings The Mess Hall and The Whigs, underlining this is a label not standing still. A few alumnus even manage to record a new song as a sort of label super group. Every label should have a super group.

In short, a collection that's not too hard to digest and also not easy to put down.– The Barman






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