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Lowercase Records Compilation #2 - Musicians With Day Jobs
Artist: Various
Label:  Lowercase Records
Time:   14 tracks / 56:04 minutes

San Francisco independent label Lowercase brings us a second, broad-ranging sampler of artists they know, many of whom have albums and EPs on the label. Production and performance quality ranges from the surprisingly professional, given that these are all part-timers, to the unsurprisingly amateurish, given that these are early days for some of these acts.

There are several high points among these 14 tracks:  Til Seven Years Pass Over Him's tight, crunchy live performance of "Anatomy" is a tremolo guitar framed alt-rock song that goes something like: quiet-LOUD-Medium-LOUD-REALLY LOUD-quiet-EXTREMELY_LOUD-polite applause. Upside Down Room's "Dragstrip," a tub-thumping garage 12-bar instrumental, almost smells of hi-octane fuel, burning rubber and The Cramps. This Boy Loveless' "...and a Tremolo Heart" is a slow-burning Faith-era-Cure/Smashing Pumpkins style number, let down only by the fact that the singer didn't pitch as well as Billy Corgan.  Smelling Salts' 
contribution, "Mental Torque," is a slick sample-laden acid-dance number and humorous, if slightly dated.  Some deftly produced hardcore rock is contributed in the shape of Left Out's "Time to Kill."

Of the rest, most are pleasant enough:  Outerspace should have tuned their guitars before recording the start of "Lullabies," which evolves into something suitably narcoleptic. Melody's "A Song of Surrender" is similar, if a shade overlong. Burnt Sienna's "Wander" is akin to Left Out's track, but suffers in comparison because of lacklustre production.  On Schedule Two's track, "Burden," the players take a while to get in step with each other but there's some nice viola playing from Jessica Stephen and singer Steve Allen voice has a Bolan-esque charm.  Jessica Stephen's solo acoustic contribution, "Angel," wears shades of Tracey Thorn in its light, folky touch. Stefan Mitosinka can't pull off the vocal flourishes he aims at on "Meadow," which kicks off with a breezy jangle, but makes some intriguing shifts in rhythm and tempo.  "Back," by Zeromile, features the "one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind" Neil Armstrong quote, which is a smart idea cancelled by the use of that most hackneyed of rhyming couplets "waiting/anticipating." At 7 minutes, it feels at least 3 minutes too long.

The two unpleasant tracks are by Keith Gidlund and Silent Music Club.  Gidlund's "Not So Easy" features some lazy, off key singing, a piano that sounds suspiciously in need of tuning and some distinctly amateur extreme panning.  SMC's "Audio Is Video" is deliberately grating.  It starts like early Depeche Mode, then gets shouty before reverting. And so on. Taken from the Sirens of Silence EP, based on Ray Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451, it spits venomous lyrics, such as "mindless robotic workers forgotten their sacred martyr/ Millions of marchers marching to six hundred and sixty six drummers", before returning to the "Audio, audio is video. Video, video is audio" hook.  It's all a bit impenetrable when not in the context of the EP, but one lesson is clear: Don't let this man wire up your home entertainmentcenter.

The beauty (and possibly also the danger, if your tastes are not broad) of an independent compilation such as this, is that the selection is as eclectic as you're likely to find anywhere. You'll probably like some of it, and maybe--as Lowercase hope--use it as an introduction to those artists' other recordings. You're also unlikely to like all of it, but at least you'll come away feeling like you've been challenged and educated.

Daren Allder 10/19/99

This compilation is a peculiar blend of music.  From the pop-alternative acoustic sounds of Stephan Mitosinka and Jessica Stephan to the edge of Upside Down Room and Till Seven Years…, Lower Case leaves the listener wondering just what type of label they are.  They, like most labels that end up producing a smattering of good and bad music, will not be pigeon holed by just signing one genre..

This Boy Loveless kicks off the compilation with a pop sound that gets the foot tapping.  The comp lulls for two tracks before heading into the edgy and energetic Till Seven Years Pass Over Him (apparently a reference to the famous King of Babylon).  This is a well produced live track with strong guitars balancing a straightforward singing style.  The comp lulls again for several tracks until it finds a foothold in the punk style of Left Out.  This track is much better than their previous single on the first Lower Case compilation.

The tracks on this comp vary, but they don’t catch you off guard either.  Although some of the music is interesting, there isn’t really any new music featured here.  For the most part, the bands featured aren't going to be quitting those day jobs anytime soon.

Todd Ballard 2/6/2000


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