Many people claim that digital music downloads, both legal and pirating varieties, have killed the celebrated compilation record. Label samplers are generally an item of the past, Punk-O-Rama has jumped ship, and despite their plumpest lineup ever Fat Wreck has not reminded us collectively how overweight they are. Don’t even get me started on an all un-released material record either -- I’m almost tempted to start a campaign so that Bush can be elected a third time just so Fat Mike churns out another fantastic Rock Against Bush disc!
So if it’s true that the wide spread of music availability over the Internet has destroyed the compilation album, then how can Thick Records pump out two startling assemblages of unreleased music without traveling outside the Chicago, IL region?
Hair: Chicago Punk Cuts is a sequel, if you will, to 2004’s Oil: Chicago Punk Refined. The fine folks at Thick have lumped Chi-town’s most talented musicians in a room and, presumably through torture methods, forced them to churn out their best work to date. After all, it worked on Oil for Rise Against, Alkaline Trio, and Bob Nanna, as they all wrote their preeminent songs to date.
Who helps make Hair the tour de force it is? In order of appearance: Allister, Much the Same, the Killing Tree, Cougars, Holy Roman Empire, Split Habit, Explode and Make Up, the Methadones, Colossal, Horace Pinker, the Bomb, Ryan’s Hope, Break the Silence, and the Felix Culpa.
Allister's “Walking the Plank” is the biggest surprise of the record. Remember when they were a generic pop-punk band and covered the "Fraggle Rock" theme song? This song takes a vital Alkaline Trio influence and mixes it with a bit of classic Green Day in a huge step up for these guys.
Ever get a haircut and have the barber jam the clippers into your head, slicing off part of your ear? “[The Killing Tree] Is Dressed to Fuck” is that brutal and light years ahead of their previous material. The guitars are heavy and will make your ears quiver, while Mcllarth’s vocals on the track make his voice in Rise Against seem pubescent. Female vocals from Holy Roman Empire's frontwoman glazing the leisured chorus are a significant layer of the song, adding another element of intensity to an already intricate recording.
Not enough folks care about Cougars, and in the post-Rocket from the Crypt era it is a shame. The horns are the driving force behind “We Blog the Hardest," but it’s the way they congeal with the drumming that makes the song so prevailing.
To me, Colossal always been one step away from a truly great song, but everything comes together full strength on “Give Me a Tropical Contact High." The track is soft and the brass parts allow the song to glide as if it were a soft ocean wave greeting the shore. Despite being a mellow track not a single moment is forgettable, partially thanks to the jingly guitar hook.
Punknews Records' most recent signing, Ryan's Hope waste no time in picking up where their debut album, Apocalypse in Increments, left off on "Condemning Race." A swift guitar driven track crashing between metal and punk blended with Terry’s throaty vocals and catchy clapping parts highlight why these Joliet boys are straightforwardly one of the most endowed bands in modern punk rock.
Dan Precision played a pivotal role in Chicago’s legendary 88 Fingers Louie, as well as aiding in the creation of Rise Against’s best album (The Unraveling). His newer audible canvas in Break the Silence shares the intensity of his two former acts, but the comparisons halt quickly. Screaming and melodic vocals braid "Face Down" into two directions, but captivating guitars, specifically the basslines, tie this song into a whole.
Out of the 14 tracks I can only hear one dud in the bunch. Last year I raved over Split Habit’s debut as a really fun pop-punk record. Unfortunately, their song “West Palm Sand” does not share that up-beat charisma as it fizzles away unknowingly in the background.
When I go to the barbershop I always sit around and wait for one specific barber. A good barber is one who always delivers a quality haircut and his talents and trust cannot be easily replicated. Thick Records are that barber I would patiently wait for on a Saturday afternoon. Always coming through with the perfect haircut and even going the extra step by shaving the back of your neck with warm shaving cream and touching up your sideburns. An excellent service to the public cannot be matched and Thick acknowledges that by supplying one of the best compilations records in years.