Compilation albums are an odd beast. Relying on not one band but several (in the case of the fifth Alcopop! comp, twenty) to come through with a track to capable of holding up their section of the stage, lest the whole thing risk a devastating collapse. A compilation needs to be strong in all the right places (preferably all of the places) and nothing is as crucial as the opening track.
Rams Pocket Radios get that privilege here and bring things to life with the piano driven ‘Dieter Rams Has Got the Pocket Radios.’ It’s a catchy track and the thought of an hour long selection of mostly unknown music becomes a little less daunting. As the vocals burst into the mix of WOT GORILLA’s ‘Hold Me Back’ it becomes apparent that this is not going to be twenty carbon copy sounds– shades of emo influence colouring this song in a fantastic way.
Elliott Morris changes matters again with a blinder of an acoustic track. ‘Home (Live Acoustic Mix)’ is wonderful, heartfelt music and may well be the best track on offer. The chorus soars and there’s a passionate vigor that moves with Morris’ voice and the excellent guitar playing to give ‘Home’ a beauty no other track nears. Probably Right’s ‘Summer Camp’ again continues the ever-changing sound Alcopop have clearly aimed for. ‘Summer Camp’ sounds like a mix of Blondie and Camera Obscura if everyone had listened to a chunk of funk and soul before recording.
The Adults, Elderly And Children are one of the few bands managing to reach the same level as Elliott Morris. Their contribution, ‘Vogel’ is a fantastic, passionate piece driven along by some truly wonderful guitar playing. Think Algernon Cadwallader with cleaner vocals. Our Lost Infantry keep things going well with ‘Pedestals’ – proving Alcopop!’s ear for interest. There’s more than a hint of familiarity on this track but it’s well written and smart enough to show why the band deserve their place.
The problem with a twenty-song compilation album is time. ‘Hit-Hiker’s Guide…’ is over an hour long and despite undoubtedly skillful performances on the part of the artists there’s just too much going on. Towards the end the album starts to lull and it becomes more and more difficult to stay focused on the great music being played. ‘Barlights’ (Dexy and the Hand Me Downs) is a great tune, for example, but sadly it’s lost in the sheer mass of music on display. If you do make it all the way to the end, however, Squarehead’s ‘Mother Nurture’ is catchy and clever enough to leave a good taste in your mouth and feeling as though the man with the running order plan had something in mind all along.
There are no bad songs on this compilation. As with any such record taste is a difficult question. There’s both similarity and variety in equal measure making for a very good record on the whole. The best songs are very good and well worth checking out the record for. The less spectacular of the tracks still hold true and make for good listening. The only real let down is the length, no matter how good a song is, thrown in with nineteen others it will always struggle. This is not a record of boring tracks but it is, toward the end, dangerously close to being a boring record of tracks.
‘Alcopopular 5 – Hit-Hikers Guide To The UK’ is out now on Alcopop! Records.
Words by Tom Knott (@nounandthenouns)