February 19, 2004

Various Artists "Compulation, Volume One"

Have you ever been in a situation where someone likes you, and by the time you've caught on that they like you, they've moved on, because you didn't notice their signals? I've been guilty of that, and because I have missed out on some really great opportunities by blindness, I can't help wondering about what might have been. Would I have been happier? Would I have been better off? Would my life have improved? Such questions can really cause you to go into a funk.

"But Joseph, where are you going with this?"

I say these things because, listening to Pox World Empire's excellent compilation of North Carolina bands, Compulation, I feel bad. I've had this record sitting on my desk for a while, but for some reason I never gave it the attention it deserved. After all, compilation records are somewhat sticky and tricky for us reviewers; it's hard to do a track-by-track rundown, and reviews of them can often be rather stiff and workmanlike. Sure, occasionally I'd listen to one or two tracks, like the Rosebuds' opening "Governor's Daughter," or would skim through it, not really paying attention to its signals---until this morning, that is.

This morning, I listened to it again, and I noticed something about it. I was drawn into the record after listening to Gerty's "Silver Balloon." It's one of those hit-repeat songs that I really fall for; it's a fresh blast of new-wave sweetness that's instantly likeable, and after hitting repeat again, I decided to take a swing through the record again, and it was a totally new experience. I fell for this record hook, line and sinker, and even the songs that other reviewers might have considered 'stinkers' are worth repeated listens, and the fact that I'd only heard of three of the acts on here (Ben Davis, The Rosebuds and Portastatic) didn't matter to me. From the weird "Profiles" by Cold Sides, to the classic (indie) rock of Schooner's "Long Long Time" (think Mark Kozelek singing upbeat songs), Compulation really covers a lot of ground, and, surprisingly, the quality level's really rather high. My favorite, though, would have to be "Smaller than Life" by The Sames. It's one of the better songs I've heard this year, and it makes me anxious to hear that full length that's forthcoming.

Compulation proves there's more to North Carolina than Merge Records, and the fact that many of the better bands featured here are also signed to Pox World Empire also says a lot about this little, previously unknown little label. I feel bad that I dismissed this record for so long--a love affair was right under my nose and I missed it. I hope Pox World Empire can forgive me.

--Joseph Kyle

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