Alcopop! Records are releasing a sampler on a mountain bike, of all formats. We can all agree that this is pretty awesome, but how are the songs? There's no point buying a bike if the music it represents is rubbish.
Fortunately, I've had a listen to the tracks that come with that swanky set of wheels, and the whole set is just as colourful as the bike itself. Here's a track-by-track look at Alcopopular 6: Highway to the Velodrome.
- The King is Dead by Max Raptor
A pretty sweet bassline, and the compilation instantly reveals itself to be heavier than I expected. This song doesn't sound much like a brightly-coloured bike (more like a black one with flaming tassels on either handlebar) but it's one rollicking way to kick things off. Thumbs up.
- Tongue Surfer by Gnarwolves
This one's kind of all over the place; the song is half-over before it's even settled on a particular tempo, and when it finally does, it opts for a sort of fist-pumping, cymbal-whacking punk-pop feel of which I'm not a big fan. Thumbs down.
- Toucan Surf by Jaws
Ooh, cool synths. Three tracks in and this compilation is already showing its diversity, so that's definitely a plus. Yeah, I really like this one - it reminds be a bit of that band Peace, only less baggy and a bit more intelligent. Thumbs up.
- Cream Soda by Playlounge
Wontoothreefor! These guys sound like This Many Boyfriends, which can only be a good thing, but I do wish the vocals were a little higher in the mix. The best bit is the nice (albeit brief) jangly breakdown that shows up around the 1:20 mark. Thumbs most of the way up.
- Digsaw by The Wytches
I pledged my allegiance to The Wytches in my Swn Festival blog, so it should come as no surprise that I'm into this. I still prefer them in the flesh, but this eerie little groove is still a worthy addition to any Halloween playlist (yes, I realise I'm several days late, but it's never too early to plan for next year). Thumbs up.
- Seventeen by Night Engine
A pulsing, stomping track, laced with squiggly synths and spider-fingered guitar playing. It's got that Franz Ferdinand disco feel going on, and the singer sounds like David Bowie - if that's not a recommendation I don't know what is. Might be my favourite so far. Thumbs way, way up.
- Friends With Girls by The Spills
Okay, I get how this one works: it starts off sounding sort of relaxed, and then the music gets louder and the singer gets shoutier...and 'round we go again. It is sort of infectious, though, and I do like a singer who isn't afraid to knacker the old chords. Thumbs about 75% up.
- Wet Wet Wet Wet by Axes
Mm, not sure about this one. It's an instrumental, and once the introductory tomfoolery is out of the way, it turns out to be based around a slightly military snare drum pattern that eventually turns into an upbeat indie rocker. That's pretty cool, but then it changes again; it's a big mess of shrill guitars and gear changes, and it's difficult to get a handle on. Thumbs out sideways.
- Toothache by Throwing Up
I like it. It's simple, it's got a punky chug to it that you can really nod along to, and - hey! - you can even hear what she's singing. Thumbs up.
- Sand Smiles by Birdskulls
The verses are all right, but on the whole this song doesn't do much for me. It sounds like the Foo Fighters and Dinosaur Jr. having a jam together, except it's not really amounting to much and J Mascis is getting kind of bored and...eh. Thumbs most of the way down.
- Arabesque Bedouin by Radstewart
I've heard the name Radstewart a lot lately - I think they're relatively local - but this is the first time I've met their music. I somehow had the impression that they were a noisy indie punk band with loads of fuzz and not many tunes, but this is actually really good, a quiet and measured song that's reminiscent of Pavement or Tullycraft. A nice surprise, and a hearty thumbs up.
- Tastes Like Medicine by Menace Beach
This one's great, a shoegazey stormer with proper go-for-it drums and haunting ladyvocals somewhere up top. Thumbs up.
- Grim by Crushed Beaks
Eh, not sure. It's a bit ham-fisted, although I do like the distorted, distant organ or steel drums or whatever that sound is in the chorus. Thumbs out sideways.
- Ganger by Pet Moon
An odd'un to end on. It starts with clinky, Phosphorescent-like percussion, swirling synths, and extremely crisp vocals that sound oddly poppy when juxtaposed with references to Satan. And then it begins to build, adding more layers of synth and a very ambient helping of canned drums. I think I like it - it ends up sounding very epic indeed - but boy, it's a sneaky one. Thumbs up.
I think the best way to judge a sampler/compilation/mixtape is to think about how many tracks you're likely to keep coming back to. There are at least four or five such songs on Alcopop's bike, and that seems pretty good to me.
Also, if this sampler is supposed to introduce people to some of the artists on the label's roster, its creators will be pleased to hear that I'm definitely interested in hearing more of Night Engine. Do they have an album out, or...?