Sound Check

Compile and the World Compiles With You

CITY PAGES MUSIC Contributor Michaelangelo Matos just returned from Kinko's with several piles of Greatest Hits, his new fanzine devoted to the art of the "mixtape"--or "the only good reason to collect records," as one writer calls it (e-mail greatesthitszine@hotmail.com). The season couldn't be better suited to such homebody fandom, but the compilations hogging my stereo in recent months are more the mass-produced type--multi-band collections that, by happenstance, document Minnesota's varied music scenes. Such Ur-mix tapes have a long, influential tradition in local rock 'n' roll, from The Big Hits of Mid-America records of the 1960s to last year's Stuck on AM: Live Performances on 770 Radio K. The latter comp was arguably the most important Minneapolis disc of '99, and helped keep a number of performers who didn't release proper CDs--most notably Mason Jennings and Atmosphere--in our stereo consciousness and on the air.

Similarly, an excellent compilation of local post-swing twang and bop from KLBB (1400 and 1470 AM) sounds surprisingly essential a few months after its release. Nightclub 14: The Sounds of the Twin Cities is further proof that the swinging community, as it were, will outlast The Trend by introducing fans of Trailer Trash and Accident Clearinghouse to those of Debbie Duncan and a newly jazzified Laura Schlieske (of the B-Sides). Not quite a genrefuck, but we'll leave that to the Hot Heads and their hybrid of music that eased your grandparents into the back seat.

Still crazy after all this year: Do You Know the Secret Trousers?
Still crazy after all this year: Do You Know the Secret Trousers?

The brightest revelations, as usual, come from the darkest corners--and less established backers. Do You Know the Secret Trousers? arrives via indie labels Stick It to the Man Records and Mod Holland, standing as a stern rebuke to cynics who claim that lo-fi post-whatever has--along with literature, rock 'n' roll, and the ability to shock with hairdos--gone gently into Screamin' Jay's good night. The album is also proof that bad music polished to shine at one of our more expensive studios is no match for okay-to-great music rendered with terrible production.

The potent garage snarl of Thee Kiss N Tells is so vintage you feel every second past the first two minutes and 47 seconds. But Wendy Darst and hubby Howlin' Andy rip so hard into their fricatives that garage-punk suddenly seems not just a good idea but the only idea--an antidote for these dreary days of math rock and emo-ting. The rest is nearly as fun: Jesse Peterson's Sonic Youthful brooding; unheard gems from the Pins and Terry Eason; and an odd-song-out by Lori Wray, a gifted singer-songwriter who stops the noise train long enough to show that she has internalized Carole King's delicate way around potentially pretentious jazz changes.

The only real media tie-in promoting Groove Garden Records' blazing and beguiling Varietals is executive producer Jennifer Downham's Saturday-evening broadcasts on KFAI (90.3 and 106.7 FM)--not quite like having a whole radio station. But this comp captures a growing scene as surely as any of the above, and its surprises wear better on replay.

I fully expected to be engaged by Atmosphere's Slug doing some a cappella rapping ("Pride's Paranoia"), but his number with partner MC Eyedea and Anticon producer Sole over squishy beats by Anomaly is more trippy and tastefully Reznoresque than anything local rap has produced. Maybe not a trend we should encourage, but not bad at all. Fans of Happy Apple will already own the cut here, taken from Part of the Solution Problem, but they might be directed to Groove Garden supergroup Fresh Squeez, led by ex-Sensational Joint Chief J.G. Everest, and to one of Apple core Dave King's skronkier bands, F*K*G. (That's not even mentioning the fine cross section of unheard hip hop.) I couldn't do any better with a cassette and a pile of my favorite local demos.

Loud and Proud

ANOTHER LOCALLY PRODUCED compilation I missed last year was HomoCore Minneapolis: Live and Loud, an invigorating little document of the live queer-punk shows blowing through District 202 in the late Nineties. Ed Varga organized and taped gigs by such nationally notorious noisemakers as the metallic Lucifag, the humorous Tribe 8, and the brilliantly succinct Fagatron--along with noted synth-popping locals Sherman Electric. Now Ed brings a resurgent Grant Hart into the queer-punk fold with a show featuring Roast Beast and the Menstrual Tramps on Friday, March 3 at the Red Eye; (612) 897-9769. To paraphrase punk wits the Butchies, the galaxy is still gay--and expanding.

Hope I Die Before I Get On VH1

FROM OUR MAIL bag: Scott Quittem complains, "Your paper consistently ignores any non-hip music (considered 'old'?). As the owner of the Gypsy tribute web page, I can attest that your paper and the evil Star Tribune do their best to ignore baby boomer music." Well, boomers and VH1 freaks, I encourage you to check out the network's live taping of Gypsy for a Where Are They Now? segment on Saturday, March 4 at the Main Event in Fridley; (612) 502-0056. The former Underbeats (uncool name in 1970) were considered the best Minnesota band in the world. Or so I'm told--I'm only 17. For more information, go to home.netcom.com/~mistersq/ on that machine your kids use.

 
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