Charity compilations almost always have good intentions, yet the follow-through often does not live up to the potential. Perhaps the disc itself fails to be a good compilation in the first place, or possibly you just aren’t sure how much of your money is actually going to the charity, or how much of an impact your donation is making. Music Saves Lives certainly addresses the latter two of these problems, yet the former…well, that’s a bit less objective.
As far as making a difference to the cause, this is not merely a case of a dollar from every purchase going to that charity. No, the way Music Saves Lives works is through a sort of barter system. You do not pay any money for this compilation -- you simply give blood at a Music Saves Lives blood drive or become a part of the bone marrow registry at a Music Saves Lives event. The Music Saves Lives website and MySpace inform you of all the possible dates and locations to participate, including every stop on the Taste of Chaos tour. A fresh concept with a fairly good execution, certainly.
Hopefully, people will be participating in a Music Saves Lives donation for the cause rather than the compilation. But because that may not always be the case, it should be noted that the compilation is actually better than one would expect from looking at its roster, but not exactly stellar either. The main draw of compilations is a good set of exclusive or rare tracks, of which Music Saves Lives is certainly lacking. It features a remix (“From Now On” by Run Doris Run), a rare demo (“Games” by Kaddisfly), an unreleased “producer’s cut” (“From the Top” by the Panic Division), a limited-release track (“Calling” by Sink to See), and an alternate version of a released song (“The Best Part About It Honey” by Daphne Loves Derby), yet that’s it for exclusives.
As you may have noticed from the bands just mentioned, the target demographic for this compilation is, in all probability, the type of kid already attending Taste of Chaos. The disc features artists like Head Automatica, New Found Glory, Mae, Anberlin, Sugarcult and Jack’s Mannequin. There are also a few artists that definitely stick out, such as Stacy Clark and k-os, but for the most part you know what to expect coming into the disc. The compilation definitely has its highlights, such as Liam and Me’s danceable opener “Don’t Say a Word,” Hot Rod Circuit’s excellent “Stateside,” and Sink to See’s surprisingly catchy “Calling.” However, the compilation also features a number of clunkers, such as the poorly mixed Daphne Loves Derby track mentioned earlier and Blinded Black’s “Can You Hear Me Now,” which exposes the group as stuck halfway between two bands they want to impersonate, not quite sure if it should be Motion City Soundtrack or Hawthorne Heights. The inclusion of one track in particular seems just odd…why “More Than Useless” by Relient K, when that song was released in 2004? Why not something from their latest effort, which would be slightly more relevant?
When all is said and done, it’s the cause that is the true highlight of the disc, and anyone who was looking for a good excuse to sign up for bone marrow or blood donations has found it. Even if you end up giving the disc to a younger sibling who might appreciate it more (birthday present for your little cousin, anyone?), Music Saves Lives is taking a novel approach to bringing music and charity together, and for that, they certainly deserve some accolades.