Various Artists – Mixed Signals
Record Label: Run For Cover
Release Date: September 6, 2011
A few years back, I used to think that compilations were a thing of the past. For one, it seemed for a while that they were just some of the worst mix CDs that weren't worth a dime on spending. Two, if you really wanted a certain track off a particular compilation, you really could find other means of obtaining it. With the digital age, compilations seem like more of a way to just get a lot of bands out there so that the general public can be familiar with them. What happened to the Punk-O-Rama or Hopelessly Devoted to You or Another Year on the Street comps? Those were compilations that defined a time and place. For me, those were my BYO Records's Someone Got Their Head Kicked In equivalents.
When I talked to Run For Cover's Jeff Casazza a few months ago about this upcoming 50th release for his label, it got me excited to find out who was going to be a part of it: a lot of bands on Casazza's label, but a couple of ones that aren't. As I see it now, Mixed Signals has the potential to go down as a seminal compilation of bands and tunes that is a snapshot of the start of an increasingly growing underground at the beginning of this decade. What makes Mixed Signals special is truly the variety it issues to the masses. There isn't a specific sound brewing right now. Instead, it's a community that's respecting and musing off of a wide range of genres.
Polar Bear Club opens up the compilation with "Killin' It" - a track that proves it's never too late for a band to continue growing. Coming off their recently released Clash Battle Guilt Pride, it's a statement that a lot of these bands are beginning to bridge the gap from writing as adolescent punks and constructing valid songs. Kids scoffed at the hardcore acts of the '80s for this, but I think this generation is opening up to the idea - and it's a wonderful thing to see. The same can be said about the slick execution of Hostage Calm's "The 'M' Word" and their "power-pop" songwriting that has brought them out of being a hardcore band into Costello like worshipers. Then there's "Coats" by Make Do and Mend. Are they a punk band? Are they a rock band? Those two questions - a tight-rope they walk - which makes them one of the sharpest blades out there right now. Daylight's "Cursed" is powerful, and the fun chorus line in The Mezingers' "Irish Goodbyes" will get stuck in your head for sometime thereafter.
Daytrader's "Texts and Tomes" reminds me why the Deep Elm comps did so well: gripping melodies and frantic harmonies. Their upcoming full-length has the potential to be huge. Balance and Composure's "Seahorses" sticks out, as the band continues to remind us that most of our first spoonfuls of any sort of musical background started with alternative rockers made of grit. But it's the closing "To the Janitor the King" by The World is a Beautiful Place and I Am No Longer Afraid to Die that really sums up this compilation, the artists that make it up and what I've been screaming for the past few months about "how it is again."
It's not so much the song (which is great) but the fact that it was written, recorded in one take and decided on within 24 hours - with some of the band members somewhat inebriated during the process. The drinking aside, it's no different than any band past and present just hanging out and writing music. It's an outlet for their emotions and current joys and distress. That's what this scene has always been about. From the Sex Pistols to Wire to Minor Threat to NOFX to The Promise Ring to Pg. 99 to Thursday up onto now. This is just the start of the next cycle of that feeling. People getting in vans and living a dream. A lot of bands doing different things and referencing their idols in the process. How long will it last? No one really knows. Luckily compilations such as Mixed Signals are at least there to archive a perfect picture so that we're not skipping a beat when future generations look back. Compilations like this are necessary, but it's unfortunate that time will tell if they will continue.
I realize this is an old thread but I'm way behind and only got my hands on this album over the weekend. I'd have to say though I was really impressed. It's one of the better record label comps I've heard in a good while.