Why Popstars Can’t Dance

What I Think of When I Think of This Artist

This is the first compilation I’ve had to address here. It re-raises questions of organization, which I had not previously answered in consistent fashion. Some compilations I had organized by the name of the issuing party (like my Mojo magazine comps, or the Parasol label’s Sweet Sixteen albums). But I also had the Victoria Williams charity album Sweet Relief under the “S”’s, by virtue of its title, and also the Creation comp The Patron Saints of Teenage was filed under “P.” The problem is I don’t really know these albums by their titles. I am more apt to think about “that ska comp from Mojo.” Pushed to make a decision, I think alphabetically by title makes the most sense – and if that forces me to learn the titles, then that’s fine.

What I Think of This Album

I really like the Slumberland label, though I have to say I find this compilation from 1994 a little disappointing. It’s fine, and there is some good (and rare) stuff here, but it doesn’t blow me away like I expected it to. I am not really sure why I keep this – I guess I just like that it’s a document of the scene from the early ‘90s, even if it’s not terribly compelling. There are twelve artists represented, eleven with two songs apiece and poor Jane Pow with just one track. The album is also almost evenly split between American and British acts.

Honeybunch was a Rhode Island band featuring future members of the Magnetic Fields (Claudia Gonson) and Velvet Crush (Jeffrey Underhill/Borchardt). Their offerings are just okay, frankly, but sort of skimp on the melody and with limp tempos. I don’t know anything about the Artisans, who hail from England. “Start Again” is decent, sounding like a mash-up of Heavenly and Velocity Girl. But the gem here is the violin-powered “Tolerance.” Rocketship is a band from Sacramento, or at least in 1994 they were; thereafter, it was basically a vehicle for the work of founder Dustin Reske. An organ, backing “ooohs” and a charming melody bring out the best of “Your New Boyfriend,” though the lengthy, hazy “Like a Dream” suffers from the overbearing organ sounds. The Steamkings have a history back to 1986, but again, this was a new band for me. “Darkest Star” is a ton of fun, refreshing and bright, with some nice guitar work thrown in at the end. “Sad About You,” however, just plods along, and coming so soon after the similarly tedious “Like a Dream,” really hurts the album. Stereolab is the biggest name on the comp; they had roots in the leftist indie band McCarthy. I’ve never been into Stereolab, but “John Cage Bubblegum” is enjoyable, and “Eloge d’Eros” is very cool.

Lorelei is another mystery band, hailing from Arlington, Virginia. “Stop What You’re Doing” is a busy but well-arranged little tune that could’ve used a stronger vocalist singing a better melody; this is 80% of a very good song. The same thin vocals (as well as a too-loud drum sound) plague “Float My Bed,” which is otherwise a decent noise-pop number. Like Slumberland founder (and member of Black Tambourine) Mike Schulman, the Ropers are from Maryland circa 1991, and its main members also spent time in the Lilys. I hope “Blue Sunday” is a New Order joke, but even if not, it’s still a pretty good song. The dark, dense, oceanic “Drive” is a wonderful shoegaze showcase. Singer-songwriter Linda Smith is another discovery. She sounds a bit like Tanya Donnelly (Throwing Muses, Breeders, Belly), breathily cooing over the brittle “The Real Miss Charlotte”; her whispered counting on the track is a highlight. “There’s Nothing You Can Do About It” is a series of short, sharp guitar shocks that could’ve used more effort.

Glo-Worm is the band that Black Tambourine vocalist Pam Berry formed in 1993. They do a winsome turn on the pretty and lush “Stars Above.” There is nothing about “Tilt-A-Whirl” that is deserving of that title, and I find the melody to be quite unpleasant. The story is that Schulman asked San Jose band Silver to change its name quickly, and they came up with Jupiter Sun. Which is definitely a worse name. But “Headlight Beam Reaction” is a fuzzy yet delicate delight, with some surprising and welcome sound effects coming out of the blue as the song winds down. It sounds like we arrive in the middle of “Violet Intertwine,” which reminds me a lot of Ride (due mostly to the backing vocals and powerful drumming) with a daintier guitar sound. Six-piece band Jane Pow is from England with a birth date in 1988, and their sole offering “Reorganize” is what would’ve happened if second-album Stone Roses got really drunk, stole a keyboard, and tried to rewrite “(I’m Not Your) Steppin’ Stone.” Not a fan. At one point, I owned a Boyracer album. They came out of Leeds in 1990, and are fairly well-known in the indie-pop world. Neither of their contributions is anything special, though “Speedtrap” is at least listenable.

The Best Thing About This Album

I am choosing the Ropers over Stereolab. Each provided two good songs (Jupiter Sun arguably did too but such is life) but the Ropers get the nod because I hadn’t heard of them before.

Release Date

October, 1994

The Cover Art

It’s neither good nor bad, much like the album itself. I don’t really understand the title (the explanation in the booklet provides the unsatisfactory answer “because guilty feet have got no rhythm”). The color scheme is also mediocre. 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Proudly powered by WordPress | Theme: Baskerville 2 by Anders Noren.

Up ↑