Various Artists: Imagine the Shapes

Various Artists
Imagine the Shapes
What's Your Rupture?

With Imagine the Shapes, upstart indie label What’s Your Rupture? rounds up their vinyl output for a digital statement of purpose. Running all these releases in a row makes for a rollicking affair full of infectious angst and giddy angularity. Swirling strains of punk and northern soul, the four artists featured establish an idiosyncratic space for the label somewhere between the urban cool of DFA and the earnest amateur spark of K.

Rightfully first up on the compilation, Love Is All deliver three exuberantly combustible tracks from their Make Out, Fall Out, Make Up EP. Also appearing on their debut full-length, these stunningly rambunctious songs demonstrate why Love is All is the label’s most notable signing to date. Even though the mixing here isn’t as fiery or finely tuned as on their LP, the songs still ring with robust hooks and unrelenting energy.

After such a strong introduction, Cause Co-Motion! sound somewhat humbled. Their willfully clattering take on fiery yet shambolic pop comes off as a bit brittle and underdeveloped in the wide wake of Love Is All. Taken on their own though these songs are still pretty engaging. Refinement or precision are clearly not on agenda, but their savant stupidity proves sufficiently pleasing, if a tad trifling.

While The Long Blondes have gone on to greater visibility and success in the United Kingdom, most of their material remains regrettably unavailable elsewhere. That makes the four tracks from their Giddy Stratospheres 12″ quite a treat. Deliciously unfocused, the band veers from bouncing pogo to doo-wop to gleeful pop. The title track stands out most prominently, pointing the way towards the band’s development into heralded heirs of Pulp’s legacy as scrubby and disaffected Sheffielders.

Comet Gain wraps up the collection with their Beautiful Despair EP. A little older and sounding like it, they deliver a set of songs somewhat more mature but nor nearly as inspired as their labelmates’ material. The bristling urgency of their earlier work may be absent, but “Mainlining Mystery” takes an interesting turn, as it fuses winsome Clientele-like reverie with Mark E. Smith-aping ruminations. It’s a mildly affecting twist and helps steer the band ahead and away from their ramshackle past.

While it can’t quite compete with the album’s opening, such an ending still seems fitting. Having been around a while longer and drawing from so many of the same influences, Comet Gain has already arrived where these other bands are headed. The passion and energy may have ebbed a bit, but they’re still seeking a way forward for their sound. To their credit they’re showing their age, even if the end result isn’t anything as striking as their initial efforts. Ultimately the brash and bursting excitement of Love Is All, Cause Co-Motion!, and The Long Blondes just can’t last, and eventually they will all have to find a way to grow up as well. For now, though, this compilation stands as a testament to the invigorating rush of rock at its adolescent best.

RATING 7 / 10
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