Various - If It Plays... (Cover Artwork)
Staff Review


If It Plays... (2004)

Thinker Thought

Peoria, Illinois. A medium-sized city in the center of the state, equal distance from Chicago and St. Louis, Peoria is home of Bradley University, Caterpillar earth-moving equipment, and not that much other notable stuff. It's not usually thought of for its music scene, even from those in the state (myself) but If It Plays… shows you that there is good stuff to be heard. As the bio says, the underground music scene in the city is "consistently moderate, never quite disappearing and never quite thriving." This comp, put out by a record company based in the city, showcases Peoria bands, but also opens up to bands that claim birth in the city, which include Plane Mistaken For Stars. To fill out the comp they put on bands that have played there. If it were Chicago, that would be cheating, but this is a city that's certainly not a standard tour stop. It has allowed the comp some bigger names such as The Velvet Teen, The Red Hot Valentines and Rescue to appear with tracks that are unreleased or rare. The comp's strong suit is its eclectic nature. It does not play to a certain genre; for as it seems that the town's scene can't afford to be picky, simply looking for good music whatever it may be, so goes the compilation.

The first three tracks set the tone for the whole comp, starting out with the gentle folk-country of William Elliott Whitmore, directly into the plodding metal of natives Minsk, and then the mellow pop of The Velvet Teen covering The Magnetic Field's "No One Will Ever Love You," a track only seen before on a 7" which is now out of print. The record continues in this genre-hopping fashion. Highlights of the record include those tracks one and three as well as the previously unreleased tracks by the biggies Rescue and Planes Mistaken For Stars. Rescue's track is typical, yet typical for them is pretty damn good. The track leans a little more towards their accessible side, but is still tech and has a distortion on the vocals. The PMFS track was not exactly what I was expecting, but then again I haven't been huge into ‘em. The track was acoustic based; it still had gruff vocals and was not poppy, and still had a good amount of intensity helped by the driving drums. But I've heard much better from them and I really haven't heard much. Lastly, I am a sucker for Red Hot Valentines, but prefer their stuff that's a little older and thank goodness this track is. "Better Than Last Time" was available on their now out-of-print split with Retro Morning put out on Double Zero, and while I would have personally picked the infectious "Bring Back the Good Times" off of that, this song is good too, with their standard moog licks and big hooks but also featuring female backups.

My favorite tracks by the townies would be the sugary pop of The Amazing Killowatts, with full catchy guitar leads and featuring sweet female/male vocal harmonies. "If I Never Ever See You Again," the title, is also a line in the song that is usually followed by an "a-woo-hoo!" and I love it. Another is The Forecast's "Somebody Call and Ambulance," which is reminiscent of Hot Water Music or Small Brown Bike, but also has some clean vocal harmonies and drastic dynamic changes.

If It Plays… shows all doubters that good acts do come through Peoria and that their locals produce music just as worthy of your ears as those from the metropolises. Though the comp is not huge on big names, it has enough to draw you in, then it hooks you with a wide variety of genres and bands you would not otherwise have heard.