Friday, 15 June 2012

Stand Up For Art Rock

Stand Up For Art Rock (Because Space Rock Is Over), 1997 (VHF Records)

This compilation has become something of a reference point for me: it got me into things I would come to love, especially Richard Youngs and Wingtip Sloat. It came at a point in my life when I was just getting into post-rock (though I hate the term now it seemed fine in the 90s) and embracing things odd/experimental/psych/drone, or “out-rock” as Depth Charge in York used to label it. The CD isn't as obscure as I first though as copies are easily available on Discogs. However, it was a promo sent only sent out to shops and I've never seen another one in real life. I bought my copy for 50p in Borderline Records in Brighton (in January 1998) simply because it contained a Flying Saucer Attack song and it was so cheap. There were two things that stood out with this comp.

First, this is the oddest promo that I've ever come across due to a combination of self-deprecating wit and bizarre interludes. The insert seemed to my 17-year-old self to be the funniest thing I'd ever read: the owner [?] of VHF mocking himself, the label's sales, and the bands. I still find it funny today: “Rake is one of those prolific bands that no one likes”; “the unsold copies [of a Rake CD] represent a financial fiasco second only to Wingtip Sloat's Chewyfoot CD”; “Dave Pearce really is a coal miner, they are not American college kids pretending to be English, and Rachel Brook is 6 feet tall, not 7”. Then there are the interludes, mainly field recordings and answer-phone messages with the expletives removed – childish and pointless but I never tire of hearing them. Perhaps the highlight is an extract from “You the man” – a tribute to the Washington Bullets, which can be seen in full here To this day it remains the only hip hop song that I own.

Second, there's the music and the reason why this compilation is a must have, especially the presence of Wingtip Sloat. The comp includes the early Sloat track “Sickle”, which didn't make it onto to the Add This To The Rhetoric compilation. It sounds like little else they've done in that it has a chorus, a catchy melody, and a lilting pastoral feel to it – I suppose “Unique Scenic Drive” on Chewyfoot is about the nearest they came to repeating this sound. I immediately became a Sloat fan on hearing it and that song became a staple for every mixtape I made for the next few years – I'd still say it's my favourite bit of Sloatery. The other Sloat track “Holiday Blowjob” made it onto If Only For The Hatchery and “apparently this song is actually about Monday Night Football”, which still makes me giggle like my teenage self. I still don't understand how Pavement got to be popular and Wingtip Sloat didn't. For proof of the genius of Sloat go to: The rest of the music is pretty good too and features FSA, Rake, Doldrums, Pelt, Double U, The Rake/Pelt Big Band, and Richard Youngs & Simon Wickham-Smith. I ended up getting into most of these things and have this comp to thank/blame for it.

I love how a speculative purchase could change the way I think about music and get me into a whole range of odd things. It all comes back to my habit of rifling through bargain bins and taking a chance on something suitably interesting – perhaps the best 50p I've ever spent.

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