Vol. 1 : Songs from North Carolina
I have to admit, I was beside myself when I opened my mailbox to discover a compilation of 21 tracks from artists making music in the North Carolina Triangle (Durham, Raleigh, and Chapel Hill). In my humble opinion, North Carolina has produced some of the most talented and influential bands in the history of college rock music. When college rock seemed to have passed its prime in other scenes throughout the country, it was still alive and well in North Carolina during the early and mid-nineties. Bands like Superchunk, Polvo, and Archers of Loaf picked things up where their predecessors bands such as Lets Active, the dBs, the Connells, and countless others had started things off during the college rock heyday of the early 80s. While none of these bands sounded quite the same, there was still an indefinable quality about them all that was somehow unique to the scene. And now, this first volume of songs released by the Durham label, Pox World Empire, features what can be called the third generation of music from the bottomless pit of a music scene that is the North Carolina Triangle.
Whoever sequenced this compilation couldnt have picked a better song than The Rosebuds Governors Daughter to kick it off. If you listen closely to this first track, you can almost hear that indefinable quality Ive just tried to describe. It captures the cool, slightly Southern and perfectly pop sound that has been a trademark of so much of the music to emerge from the state of North Carolina.
But all aspects of the scene are represented here, including the more raw and experimental music of acts such as Cantwell Gomez & Jordan, des_ark, and Cold Sides, who contribute one song each. Jett Rink, dubbed by the press kit as the Triangles premier live band, delivers a novel track that recalls the vocals of Mitch Easter, except set to music that sounds like it could be the soundtrack of a Nintendo game.
In the spirit of early Superchunk and Archers of Loaf, The Ghosts of Rock deliver a screaming punk song but not lacking in melody to roughen up the comp just a little bit.
North Carolina seems to have come full circle with its electronic music, as Goner and Gerty (both bands that have recorded for Wilmingtons tiny Eskimo Kiss Records) deliver tracks heavy on the synthesizers. The former offers up a terrific song called Mustnt Touch that seems almost out of character for the band with its fast-tempo and almost creepy sounding synthesizers. Gerty, on the other hand, stays true to its core sound of 80s new wave throwback with its track, Silver Balloon.
But pop music always seems to be the dominant genre in North Carolina, and such tracks are delivered by Schooner (with a round of bop-bops); the Sleepies, who employ twee boy-girl harmonies and call and response; and then theres the good old Carolina staple, Portastic, who contributes a song Skinny Glasses Girl that has so much hook, you could hang your coat on it.
One of the things I enjoyed most about listening to this compilation is the chance to hear much of the great music that has been coming to us for review from NC combined together on one release. Pox World Empire really had the right idea when they decided to collectively recognize the bands that are carrying the torch in the Triangle. Granted, the scene still has so much depth that there are countless other bands deserving of a spot on this compulation, but hey, that must be why this is just Volume 1.
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