Wednesday 4 December 2013

Various Artists - A Sunday Matinee

Album review by

The history and evolution of record labels is an interesting one. Since the dawn of recorded sound there have been certain imprints associated with certain genres. If we skip to the dawn of the rock/pop era then labels such as Chess Records looked to push the sounds of blues, doo-wop and R&B, bringing the world the music of Muddy Waters, Bo Diddley and Howlin' Wolf. At the same time, Sun Records was launching the careers of Elvis, Jerry Lee Lewis, Johnny Cash and more, introducing the new sound of rock n' roll to the world along with country and rockabilly. The '60s saw the major labels snapping up the pop and easy listening markets, with the soul giants Motown, Stax and Atlantic making legendary recordings. It was really the DIY explosion of punk that saw the next major change. Suddenly you didn't need to spend millions on a record, independent labels sprung up to give us punk, post-punk, new-wave, indie, ska and more. Names such as Sarah Records, Factory Records and Creation amongst many others became associated with certain sounds and certain locations.

By the 1990s the whole industry had become a musical soup, a blur where label identity was lost somewhat. In fact Blur themselves are a prime example. Known as an "indie" band, they were signed to Food, a part of the EMI/Parlophone group; a major label. Scottish indie label Creation were suddenly home to multi-million sellers Oasis. It wasn't until the internet revolution that another big change came. Predicted by some to render labels obsolete, it actually gave a new freedom to the music world, one perhaps not seen since the late 1970s. Music from around the world could be heard anywhere, at any time, thus enabling labels to seek out and promote the very best on offer in the genre(s) of their choosing. Now, outside of the mainstream, being released by a certain record label can be an indicator of both style and quality once more. Personal favourites include Labrador Records who bring us the best in Scandi-pop, Sonic Cathedral who specialise in all thing shoegaze related, and Matinee Recordings who have spent the past fifteen years uncovering the finest indiepop from the four corners of the world.

As a celebration of this milestone, they've asked fifteen bands from across the globe to offer up new, previously unreleased or hard to find rarities for a well deserved anniversary compilation, 'A Sunday Matinee'. It's a testament to the quality that we've come to associate with the Californian imprint that what could have sounded like a selection of off-cuts and tracks that didn't quite make the grade the first time around actually sounds more like a triumphant advertisement. The jangly sounds they often cover perhaps have their spiritual home in Scotland, so representing that country are Bubblegum Lemonade and Strawberry Whiplash who deliver exactly what you're hoping for with the classic sound of the Glasgow underground freshened up for a new generation. England is well represented with Charlie Big Time serving up some hazy and melodic vibes on 'One Step Closer To The Enemies', the beautifully pensive 'Only Forever', the first new song in the best part of a decade by Melodie Group, and also Would-Be-Goods acknowledge the scene's debt to the pop sounds of '60s girl groups with a cover of Martha and the Vandellas' 'No More Tearstained Makeup'. Excellent Irish group 'September Girls' chip in with the fuzzy, electronic lo-fi of 'Danny Wood'.

Proving that the advances in technology and communication can be a definite benefit to the music world, we're also treated to plenty of music from further afield that perhaps a few years ago might have slipped under the radar. A real highlight is provided by Danish band Northern Portrait with the brand new 'The Young and Hopefuls', a song that any band in the history of the genre would rightly be proud of. Sweden now has a rich history of providing wonderful guitar-pop, and 'Parliament Square' by The Electric Pop Group ensures they're well represented. Australian is also allowed to shine with Simpatico's shoegazey 'The Rays'; The Steinbecks give us something new in the shape of 'Through The Curtain'; Bart and Friends supply the pretty album opener 'There's No Place', and the now sadly disbanded group The Lucksmiths chip in with a delightful cover of Jonathan Richman's 'When I'm Walking'. Another new recording and another highlight comes from Brazil's Pale Sunday and the sublime 'In The Hardest Moment'. Being a US label, they don't forget that some of the finest indiepop bands going are from their own shores, and so Math and Physics Club turn to the sparser end of '80s guitar-pop for the bounding 'I Know It's Over' (rightly compared to The Housemartins by the label) and another box-fresh addition is contributed by Clay Hips who bring some funk with 'Someone Who Wonders'. If you're new to the music of this genre then 'A Sunday Matinee' will work as a great introduction, and if you're familiar with the bands involved then there are some real treats to be found, some of which you won't know. Either way, this is a fabulously bright and breezy way to celebrate the brilliant work that Matinee have done over the years and the brilliant music made by the bands involved. Fear not, your indiepop is in safe hands. Happy anniversary guys, here's to the next fifteen years!

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