Album Review: Various Artists – Brits & Pieces

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Brits & Pieces album artwork

Brits & Pieces is a new collection born of social media.

Here is an album which proves that anything is possible with passion, enthusiasm and hard work.

Nearly two years ago, a 90s indie fan set up a Twitter account with a view to sharing memories, merchandise and anything else from the decade.

Primarily centred (but not exclusively) around Britpop, Marc Rossiter’s feed quickly became a treasure trove for fans of the era, especially through his wealth of personal photographs of luminaries from the era.

As the account gained more and more followers, new bands were recommended to Rossiter and, inspired by the Shine series, he took it upon himself to release a compilation album of independent British artists.

Now, with the tracks having been mastered by Nick Brine (engineer of (What’s The Story) Morning Glory? and The Stone Roses’ Second Coming), the CD is available to purchase from Rough Trade, with all profits being distributed to the bands equally.

Quite the achievement, but what of the tracks included? As to be expected with compilations, some songs are better than others. Selected to open the album amidst fierce competition, Otherwise by Glaswegians Spyres features moody, chilling soundscapes before rattling, intermittent explosions of guitar shock the senses.

To follow, with a sequencing reminiscent of tracklists of yore, the listener is treated to three chunks of blitzkrieg rock. Electrify (The Capollos) carries a simple sentiment (‘electrify me’) but is lifted by the relentless pace; Victim To The Culture (New Mode) sustains the tempo with barnstorming drums, while This Life (Columbia) has a hurricane of a vocal to add to the maelstrom.

Thereafter, we get some respite: Locked Together On The Lines (Theatre Royal) sees the band continuing to channel their kitchen sink British pop, with a wonderful chorus and harmonies to match, while They Don’t Know Me (Citylightz) recalls the urchin ska-rock of early Arctic Monkeys with some heavy Ordinary Boys added for good measure. The chorus line also recalls the Dandy Warhol’s Bohemian Like You. Never a bad thing. Similarly influenced by music from the other side of the pond, Run & Hide (The Lutras) is almost Springsteenian in its swagger.

The rest of the influences on the album fittingly span the history of British rock music: Humans (Ry Byron) is Kinks-esque with added larynx-shredding vocals; Letting Go (Backspace) carries some funky guitar that John Squire would be proud of, while Lights Out (Kid Violet) is an unsettling journey to darkness and back built on a very Verve bassline. Meanwhile, the chugging Crying On The Radio (Monza Express) has the best opening line on the album: ‘Five years, no not the David Bowie song’.

Not that it’s just 20th century indie that pervades: Lucky Number (The Shed Project) contains slippery arpeggio guitar of the kind that The Lathums have successfully mined, while Edinburgh (Joshua Grant) is a street-level yearning tale of love and loss that Gerry Cinnamon has built a career on.

A Better Life (Stanleys) is built of excellent percussion and vocals; Anthem For The North (Joe Astley) is fittingly anthemic; no-one matches the righteous fury on Seeing Stars (The Van T’s), and the album allows the listener to catch their breath with Don’t Ask Once (The Mariners), a jaunty sea shanty as a post-coital cigarette.

You’ll likely have your own favourite, but to this reviewer the standout track is Over The Moor (Glass Violet). Epic in every way with snappy rhyming couplets against sky-scraping soundscapes, the track redefines the word mighty.

Sometimes there really is nothing like young people frantically playing guitars against strong melodies, and this compilation has it to spare.

Spanning the whole of the British Isles, from Aberdeen to Bristol, Brits & Pieces represents an excellent snapshot of the continuing strength of UK guitar music.

 

Richard Bowes

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