Before I start, I have to tell you that this is not an album, but a compilation of everything Sommerset have released prior to ‘Fast Cars, Slow Guitars”. That means everything off their Self-Titled EP of 1995, everything off their split EP’s with 28 Days (shudder) and Mid Youth Crisis (yay!) of 1998 and 1996 respectively, and everything off their “More Songs” EP of 1997.
So: Sommerset. If you’re not familiar with these particular Australasian punkers, they’re sort of melodic hardcore with definite pop-punk leanings. This compilation varies wildly in terms of quality, with the first 13 tracks being (for the most part) the worst of the lot. That’s okay though, because those particular tracks are followed by 9 tracks of extremely high calibre.
“More Songs.” Recorded 1997. Tracks 1-12:
The First track, “Artless”, for which the video is included, is okay I guess. It’s fast, but fairly formulaic. At the end of the song, there are some nifty yelled backup vocals: “It’s all just words!” It’s catchy.
The second track, “Sometimes I wonder”, is ultimately forgettable. Well, they sound a bit too “One Dollar Short” for my liking. That translates to shit generic Aussie shit-pop (they’d claim it’s skate punk but they’re obviously insane).
Good god, they sound like ODS on the third track, “The Three R’s”, as well! (if you haven’t taken my hint, about a third of the CD should be skipped as a matter of course).
Track four, “Undisclosed” is a bit better. They trade speed and wanky effects for a decent sounding, kind of chaotic, tumbling journey of a song.
“Sleepless”, coming in at fifth position, is a bit of a pop-punk extravaganza. It doesn’t have much going for it.
“Chris’ Song”, at number six, is actually a bloody good track. It has no vocals, and is very original. It jumps around a fair bit, and kind reminds me of NOFX’s “The Death of John Smith”, if not in content then in spirit. The best song on this half of the CD (tracks 1-14).
Track seven, “Self Made”, is a fairly decent romp through soulful pop-punk. It has fast bit, angry bits, and slow, contemplative bits. It won’t win any medals for originality, but it works. It kind of takes you along for a bit of an emotional ride.
“Shacknasty”, track eight, should be good song. It has all the ingredients but it just doesn’t wash. It is by turns fast, slow, and dramatic, and it blends almost seamlessly with track nine, “JRS-One”, which is itself a decent effort. Probably the most real and meaty track so far (it doesn’t leave the oily residue of falsity that coats pop-punk).
Tracks 10 and 11 (“Excommunication” and “Mantua”) are both solid songs. Excommunication carries on a bit, and sounds a little too much like “Artless” to be convincing, but Mantua is a non-stop head-bangingly good track. It clocks in at just under 50 seconds, so there’s no time to get sick of it.
Track 12, “One Wish”, is the last track from “More Songs”, and it’s okay, though a little predictable.
Sommerset/28 Days Split EP. Recorded 1999. Tracks 13-14:
Unbelievable. The first of this pair, “MCMXCVIII” is a load of shit. What’s wrong with track 13 I hear you ask? Well, they sound a lot like ODS here. Enough said. The second of the pair, however, is pretty damn good. It’s called “Doubt”, and it’s probably the second-best song on this half of the CD. You’ll have the angry lyrics spinning round your head for days “If I don’t answer when you call/ then I don’t answer you at all”. Pure gold.
Sommerset/MYC Split EP. Recorded 1996. Tracks 15-16:
The two MYC Split tracks, “Looking into Nothing” and “Jay’s Song (victimise)” are without a doubt the best tracks on this CD. They are aggressive journeys into what Sommerset could have become if they hadn’t taken the commercial route later in their career. The lyrics are belted out with raw passion, and the rolling nature of the tracks, combined with the utilitarian production really do make for good, solid, hardcore listening.
Self-Titled EP. Recorded 1995. Tracks 17-22.
Every track on this section of the CD is awesome. They are all different, and they are all original. For the most part they are not as hardcore as the two MYC split tracks, but they are certainly harder than the songs on the first half of this CD. The tracks are, in order, “Burning”, “Nothing Left”, “Sommerset”, “Warning”, “Lifetime”, “Beyond The Line”. While they are definitely great songs, I don’t like them as much as the tracks on the MYC split, but that’s just me. The songs are just as good, and probably more balanced.
So, a solid compilation CD let down by some poor offerings later in the band’s career. Still, for 18 bucks Australian, not a bad buy. Do yourself a favour and skip tracks 1-5, and 7-13. They really aren’t that good, and the rest are so much better.