SEPTEMBER 2001 COMPILATION - Various Artists (Laughing Outlaw Records)

Jesus, another multi-artist compilation (22 songs by 22 artists). I'm starting to feel like I'm trapped in some never ending jukebox jury. At the recent FBi Radio fundraiser they were giving these away to the first 50 punters. Yep, that included me because I'd gone early to catch Guddling, who were kicking off the whole shermozzle (45 minutes BEFORE the advertised opening time - apparently FBi got so many acts volunteering their support that the schedule blew out completely). They played a good set and were worth the price of admission on their own - so then I pissed off to Bar Broadway to catch Bubble Vicious (of which, further discussion at a more appropriate juncture).

Anyway, the following day a second copy lobbed into the letterbox for review. Looks like the Fates are against me but, if the bullet's got your name on it, there's no point trying to dodge it.

So what's the story with Laughing Outlaw Records anyway? Well apparently it's been going for about 18 months and behind the scenes lurk Phantom Records founder Jules Normington and rock journo Stuart Coupe (also co-founder, with Roger Grierson, of Green Records in the early '80s). Which way do their tastes run? Well, from this comp it's hard to pin down. They haven't restricted themselves just to Aussie artists, nor to only new/unreleased records. Someone's certainly got a country bent (we're talking serious curvature) and there's a fair bit of pop, power and otherwise, plus a few that are hard to categorize...

According to their web site their basic policy boils down to: "If this was released already, would I buy it myself?" Nobly intentioned for sure, but perhaps foolhardy as well - I like a lot of stuff that would probably never sell enough to pay for its own pressings so, if I was doing something similar, I'd be broke before my catalogue got into double figures. However, these reckless bastards are already well beyond that figure and still announcing new releases, so they must be doing something right.

Okay, from the top then:

The Asteroid No 4 - Apple Street (from the forthcoming "King Richard's Collectibles" album, which will be a co-release with US label Rainbow Quartz). Very garagey fuzz guitar makes this sound like an escapee from one of the "Nuggets" collections. Although this is a contemporary band from Philadelphia, it would take no stretch of the imagination to believe that it was a regional hit in Pennsylvania (or Arizona or Wisconsin) in about 1966, but never made it nationally, probably due to the "hand up her skirt" line - we can't have these young rock'n'roll punks corrupting the morals of our youth!

Michael Carpenter - Kailee Ann. Same track as on the "Lost Weekend" compilation. Michael Carpenter is the east coast representative and co-chairman of Power Pop Ltd (also Executive Vice President in charge of Smoothness); 'nuff said.

Coronet Blue - Mission Bell. Shit, I love this. It's got a power pop heart, guitars that shred and crunch simultaneously and an extra dimension/off kilter feel which makes me start to have visions of Porcelain Bus mixed with a little Pray TV. Apparently Coronet Blue are a duo from Sydney and this is from an album produced by Mitch Easter (there's an Orange Humble Band connection somewhere in the background). If anyone from Laughing Outlaw actually reads this, they can feel free to send me a review copy of the album whence this was taken... please!

Cotton Mather - Lost My Motto (from their "Hotel Baltimore" EP, another co-release with Rainbow Quartz). Wow, another cracker. Major power pop guitar attack, flinty (as in hard, sharp and suitable for generating sparks) rhythm section and vocals sounding like a slightly nasally John Lennon singing in a blender with the tremolo turned right up.

Alejandro Escovedo - Rosalie. Hmm, this is what I meant when I said "hard to pin down". Sort of latino C&W.

D. Henry Fenton - Jericho's Horse. Simple voice and acoustic guitar, but pretty good sound for something that's just labeled "demo".

The Fletcher Pratt - Electrocute! Infectious two minute popper with snotty, nasally vocals over a very bouncy tune. The whole thing sounds so '60s it's hard to believe that this is a recent recording. These guys ought to be angry grandparents by now, sitting by the fire and complaining loudly about how much crap gets played on the radio these days compared to when they were young.

Fortress Madonna - Serikov. Opening track of the "One Hundred Beacons" album. I don't mind a slice of acoustic dream pop with a taste of something vaguely Al Stewartish on the back palate, but I'm not sure if I could go for a whole album of it.

John Kennedy - King Street. "A new day dawns in the heart of Newtown/Outside the Coles New World...". Remember John Kennedy's Love Gone Wrong? JFK and the Cuban Crisis? It's the same guy, who coined the term "Urban and Western" to describe his music. This is from the forthcoming (or maybe it's out by now) "Inner West" retrospective. Sorta lounge lizard silk and velvet meets truck stop checkered flannel ("Country and inner-Western"?). This shouldn't work for me at all, but somehow it does. For the benefit of those unfamiliar with Sydney, King Street is the main drag of inner city suburb Newtown.

Last Train Home - Everybody's Talkin'. Light country cover of the Nilsson song. Frankly, I can't see the point of including a cover on a sampler, which surely is supposed to highlight the original talents of a band...

Mark Lucas - Heart Of The Night. Nope, sorry. When an Aussie singer/song writer is trying so hard to sound Nashville that he drags hoot owls into the proceedings, I'm straight out the door.

James MacDonald - Four Hours. Another Aussie singer/song writer. This track sounds like the lost demo of a song someone intended to offer to the Fifth Dimension as a follow up to "Up, Up And Away". He's got a new album out with the terrific title of "Elevator Music For Unrequited Lovers", but I think this might be from the earlier self-financed "Believe In You".

McSweeney - Crazy. Another one that doesn't fit easily into any category. Too slow for power pop, too full for standard indie guitar pop, a bit of a C&W twang...

Myracle Brah - Isn't It A Crime. Album track from UK indie band fronted by the improbably named Andy Bopp. Like so many indie pop bands, every chord contains a million cool pop allusions to other songs by other bands, but no matter how combustible the mixture may be, there's no actual spark to get the promised inferno going; it's all just an empty exercise in cleverness. (P.S. Miracle Bra, geddit? Uplifting, no?)

Lisa Richards - Daisy Chain. Aussie singer/song writer who evokes a countrified Tori Amos, maybe with a slight cold, fronting what sounds like an acoustic bar band that's on a two schooners per tune deal. As the song progresses there's a real tension developing as the band prepares to down tools and storm the bar for a progress payment. God help her if she gets in their way.

The Shazam - On The Airwaves. Ever wonder what happened to Mi-Sex after "Blue Day"? Sounds like they moved to Tennessee and just kept on going. At least that's what I get from this unashamedly retro piece of early eighties style techno pop.

Soap Star Joe - Sedan. Another track from the same EP ("Handstands For Love") as "Met Drunk In The Corner" on the "Lost Weekend" compilation. Much cleaner guitar but still too soft for me.

Split Lip Rayfield - Movin' to Virginia. Aw fuck, banjos. Pass me the moonshine and my good whittlin' knife Cletus, I'm goin' out on the back porch with Jethro and Dwayne.

Splurge - Heavy Weather. Shit this sounds familiar, but I can't place where I might I have heard before... There's almost an Oasis feel to it, only not nearly so overwrought.

The Strawberry Smell - Zensong #9. Pleasant pop which doesn't break any new ground. I have no trouble imagining this being mimed on Countdown some time in the late seventies.

Jason Walker - The Lucky One. I am amazed at how much I like this. Sure there's a bit of a country tinge to it, but nothing like what there seemed to be when I saw him play live at the Vic on the Park not so long ago. That guitar pattern is ultra familiar though, so where do I think I recognise that from? Or is this song a cover?

Jeff Williams - No One's Substitute. God, I'm stranded out in open country with no place to hide...

And there you have it. Beer rating? Nah, I've decided to stop doing that for compilations. They're so diverse and uneven that there's no possible point. It'd be like a food critic rating the free samples in the delicatessen section of your local supermarket. - John McPharlin

PS Hey chaps, that Astrid Munday "Apparition" album on your web site looks cool, you can stick a review copy of that in with the Coronet Blue album if you like...