Voodoo Rhythm Records Label Compilation Vol. 5 LP
(Voodoo Rhythm Records)
I confess that label compilations have never been my favorite thing. Not that I’m definitively against the form (I have heard some good comps over the years, and labels like Sub Pop, Killrockstars, Epitaph, Fat Wreck Chords and Pirates Press have a longstanding history of having produced some pretty great ones), it’s just that many of the compilations I’ve heard (and this includes movie soundtrack albums too) have been characterized by selections which are either “too much” or “not enough.” That is to say, many comps feature too diffuse a focus (or, “there’s not enough of this one particular thing that I like”), or the focus is so tight that the listening experience gets boring (or, “All this electroclash sounds the same – did they all just use the same beat?”). Happily though, Voodoo Rhythm Records Label Compilation Vol. 5 suffers from neither such problem; the frenetic energy which endures through the comp’s entire runtime is infectious in part because listeners aren’t quite sure what they’re going to get at any point along the way, but the songs tie together well enough that the collection never lets listeners’ attention wane.
Wisely, Label Compilation Vol. 5 sets their hooks into listeners well and deeply from the moment that the frenzied energy of The Monsters’ “Smell My Tongue” explodes to open the A-side of the album. The song proves to be a perfect introduction; singer/guitarist Beat-Man locks into a very angular, staccato guitar figure for the song’s first verse and just shreds his larynx before flying off the handle with a grunt. Really, it’s easy to pick out of the more obvious influences at work here (some Pussy Galore-ish tones coupled with some of GG Allin’s trademark mania and some needs-first, volume-not-effects-pedals controlled overdrive), but The Monsters are still capable of turning heads due to the fact that they just come off like a phenomenon; the unspoken implication is that they’re here, they’re loud and they’re going to hold your head hostage whether you like it or not. And before the two-minute song completes its run, listeners will have totally submitted to the band; what they offer is perfect in its simplicity.
Immediately after The Monsters make their exist, Bad Mojos bring “Crash & Burn” with just ever-so-slightly more power and speed (a minute and a half, instead of The Monsters’ two minutes) and abandon just a hair more of the production value that “Smell My Tongue” boasted to further batter listeners into submission before clearing the way so Destination Lonely can get horny/sexy (the dividing lines between those two states get blurry) with their straightforward street-punk (“I Want You”), Sloks host a class on how it’s possible to make a song really memorable with a minimal amount of lyrics (“No Make-up”) before Beat-Man returns with Izobel Carcia in tow to change up the rhythms with some great, dirty shirt rock n’ roll (without distortion pedals!) and then Garcia steals the mic and the limelight for herself alone to present “Baby OK” (which sort of sounds like Neko Case performing with the meanest hangover imaginable – in all the right ways). After that (as well as some great blues-rock workshopping done by Trixie & the Trainwrecks), Degurutieni cools the running down with a Waits-ian scat workout to close the side. Now, to be fair, “Acme in the Afternoon” is about as close to an “uptown” blues as this record has on it; the tone, temperament and style of the song is very clean from front-to-back which renders it completely unlike everything else on the A-side of this comp but, because it IS the last song on the side, it feels like it fits in very well because it gives some closure and will definitely have listeners wondering what might be next when they flip the record over.
…And, delivering on that curiosity, listeners may have to actively stop themselves from shuddering in surprise when Nustter Donuts blows up the beginning of the B-side with their blaring Spanish Inquisition of a song, “Infeccion.” In the strictest terms, someone somewhere might call “infeccion” a punk song, but that will really only be seen as true if they concede that a healthy love of Butthole Surfers and a superhuman amount of PCP must have been key ingredients in the song’s creation too. For two minutes and four seconds, Nustter Donuts keep all the inputs used to capture the sound of “Infeccion” in a constant state of clip – and those who can handle such a things will be made fans forever; the sound of the song is caustic as fuck but, when it ends, listeners will be waiting anxiously for more to see if anything left on the side might be comparable to “Infeccion.”
Perhaps just to offer listeners a perfect foil for “Infeccion,” The Sex Organs lob a really slippery, straight-ahead garage-rock song straight over the plate for listeners to giggle at and which (by extension) pulls them in to be perverted by The Devis’ “Coitus Interruptus” (which is, without question, the greatest, mostly instrumental song that Jon Spencer never wrote), shaken up by E.T.-Explore Me with “Drug Me” so violently that that listeners may feel like they’re going to be sick by the time the song ends, before they’re left utterly confused by the almost McCartney-informed, straightforward rock bliss that The Dust Brothers just sort of prattle out offhandedly (but with a brilliance which is unmatchable) to close the album. Now, it’s not easy to tell if the reason “Mean Blue Spirit” feels so odd is because (unlike the rest of the record) it’s reasonably gentle of delivery in performance or playful in demeanor but, either way, that the last song on an album feels almost cute might make it the weirdest song on the album as well. There’s no question that there’s lots of weirdness on Voodoo Rhythm Records Label Compilation Vol. 5, and that “Mean Blue Spirit” stands out as being weird among a series of weird songs is an achievement – in its own strange way.
…And that’s the sensation listeners are left with when the needle lifts from the Voodoo Rhythm Records Label Compilation Vol. 5 LP: it’s weird, but definitely a good weird feeling. What those who have run front-to-back with this album will leave with is a nearly uncontrollable desire for more, which is exactly how one knows the album is a success: listeners will want to find the full-length albums from which each of these songs were taken. Simply said, they’ll want more – a lot more. [Bill Adams]
The Voodoo Rhythm Label Compilation Vol. 5 is out now. Buy it here, directly from Voodoo Rhythm Records.