Always intrigued by anything containing the word “Indie” in its title, I eagerly anticipated reviewing Buy Indie Music Compilation, Vol.1. But as soon as the first track hit, my enthusiasm was tempered. This disorganized and inconsistent collection of indie offerings opens with New York-based Timothy Dark. His song “Unseen Forces” comes from the album Dark Journey. According to his own description, Dark Journey “chronicles the thoughts and dreams of Timothy’s alter ego the Dark Warrior, a being from the stars who has arrived on Earth to establish a new church of love and music.” Got that? Dark’s sound might be best described as a Vernon Reid-less, more rap-based version of Living Color. But Dark’s music is not nearly as adventurous as his futuristic armor-clad image and eccentric aphorism would suggest. Rather, his sound is fairly average guitar-based hip-hop. Dark would benefit from spending more time on his songwriting, and less on manifestos for his liner notes.
“Is It a Sin?” by the Shade rattles and hums along with jangling guitars and a familiar melody. Not an unlikable tune, the country-tinged vocals blend nicely with the Stones-ey guitar work. But the song falls a bit flat, due to the simple, predictable rhymes within the lyrics.
“Wrap Me in Your Love”, by Emmett North, Jr., could easily be found on a collection of Luther Vandross B-sides. The tinny, mid-’80s synth beats and copycat vocal styling, minus the distinct Vandross smoothness and richness, suffice only to create a dated-sounding song. Listening to North hearkens up images of catching the evening’s entertainment in the lounge of a moderately priced hotel.
Cuban-American musician Ariel Aparico is very reminiscent of David Bowie, with a touch of early ABC for good measure. Moderately interesting, Aparico needs to create his own take on the Stardust era, and not reach into the Bowie bag of tricks quite so frequently, for him to become his own artist.
The most mainstream song on the compilation is from R&B quartet Heat. “Playa’s Anthem” raps about “Hittin’ the street”, and other rap conventions. Given the current climate of hip-hop, this song actually might be a hit for them. But tired beats and used rhymes does not a playa make.
Informer, product of small mountain town Prescott, Arizona, offers their version of Sabbath, Slayer, Ozzy, and other esteemed hair-metal alumni. Their addition to the album, “Crutch”, sounds exactly like the thousands of demo CDs distributed on the Sunset Strip during the late ’80s metal heyday. Not necessarily a good thing.
“Speak So Loud”, by 4th Plane Jaiant, is the most promising of tracks on this compilation. Down-tuned guitars are effective in combination with the refrain of “We speak so loud / With no one listening.” Formed in 1996 in Portland, Oregon, 4th Plane Jaiant was a semi-finalist in Billboard‘s “Best Unsigned Band” contest in 1999. Their potential is plausible, and I am curious to hear more.
The opening Sundays-like guitar strains of “Soft” sound promising, but the song quickly degenerates into something that sounds like your 12-year-old sister’s first composition. Lines like, “Now it’s time for me to cry”, and, “I am drowning in the sea of your love” do not need to be lambasted by a music critic — triteness, at this level, is readily apparent to even the most casual of listeners.
If bands could mate and have offspring, Shadow Pointe would be Dokken and Rush’s illegitimate child. Their song “I Am the One”, replete with heavy-metal “Waaooww-Yeaahhh”‘s and painfully-forced odd time signatures, is best left for your cousin in Reno that still has a mullet.
“Waking Up” by Australian band Glister, is a solid indie-pop offering à la Belly or Juliana Hatfield. Vocalist Samantha (no last name given) has female indie-pop vocals down pat, and the rest of the band is equally as solid on their respective instruments. If they can extrapolate more solid songs from the female-fronted, ’90s alt-band formula, they may be promising.
Self-professed “one-man hack-and-slash project fueled by ugly guitars, warped sequences, distorted and disjointed vocals, big beats, noise, and all-around random chaos”, Alex Machine contributes “Pale Yellow Divine”. Think Trent Reznor lite, minus the dark, brooding hooks and interesting samples.
New Hampshire band Purge d.i. ends this CD off with a perfect track — not perfect in the sense that it’s a great song — perfect in the sense that it is absolutely run-of-the-mill, nondescript, millennium-era “alt” rock. It sounds like Godsmack, it sounds like Slipknot, it sounds like Disturbed, it sounds like Staind, it sounds like….
Although a substantial one, the biggest problem with this CD is not its wandering musical styles, which are so scattered that they are unable to create a mood or a feel to the album. Granted, compilations are difficult to mastermind and make a cohesive album that has any sort of flow, but it is certainly possible to come closer than this. Rather, the most errant flaw in Buy Indie Music Compilation, Vol. 1, is that it doesn’t make you want to buy indie music. The lack of originality and talent in the bands showcased is enough to put anyone off from ever touching anything with the word “Indie” on it again.