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Various Artists, Death Before Disco (PrinceHouse)
It's ironic that a sentence written on the inside spine of this CD's tray card reads, "Without the glitter, without the cliche, without the kitsch . . . This is our music." To be sure, this audio statement of purpose from San Francisco's new PrinceHouse label, is a much-needed clarion call to remind potential rock-minded listeners that dance music is still innovative and inspired. And while the 15 bands represented -- Adult., The Pattern, GoGoGo Airheart, Dance Disaster Movement, Hint Hint, etc. -- defiantly blend elements of rock or disco, new wave or techno, electronic or skronk, everything ends up sounding simply cliched. Spastic, intriguing, and unclassifiable yes, but cliched nonetheless. Of course, this almost defeats the compilation's ostensible purpose. I say "almost" above since there are some folks on here that do manage to avoid that damning praise: The Vanishing, who arose from the ashes of the missed Subtonix, and who might yet revive goth as the next big thing for 2004; Broker/Dealer, who bring some much-needed techno goodvibes to these otherwise dark proceedings; Numbers, who sound like the B-52s playing while experiencing Pokemon-style seizures; and I Am Spoonbender, who sort-of cover "Me and My Rhythm Box" from the long-neglected grandmother to the rough "scene" circulating around bands on this CD, Slava Tsukerman's Liquid Sky.
Anthony C. Bleach