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Rough Trade Shops - Counter Culture 2005

Review: Jack Foley

ROUGH Trade is generally recognised as one of the leading independent record labels in the country; one which has consistently provided a showcase for some of the hottest new talent since opening its first record store in 1976

Each year, the label uncovers a wealth of hot new acts - some destined for bigger things, others drenched in low-key greatness, or merely those that provide a fascinating alternative from the mainstream (no matter what you may think of them).

The Counter Culture albums are therefore designed to reflect Rough Trade Shops' biggest sellers, personal favourites and hidden gems of the year.

The 2004 collection is no exception, arriving as a double CD packed with an eclectic mix of the finest Rough Trade has to offer.

Or, as the PR states: "What you have here is a chaotic mixture of the old and the new, the obscure and the well-known, the big sellers and the limited editions. All lovingly selected from the varied tastes of the staff, from amongst the many different styles of music stocked within our untidy but well-loved store and that were released during 2004."

Needless to say, the album is a mixed bag. Highlights include Elliott Smith's Lets Get Lost (a fitting reminder to a lost talent), Bloc Party's Little Thoughts (which amply demonstrates why they are the hot tops of 2005), and Cornershop's chilled out Top Knot (which went criminally overlooked).

Death From Above 1979 contribute Romantic Nights ahead of the release of Blood On Our Hands as a single - a typically raw slice of bass, drums and shouty vocals that scream out to be heard.

It is in stark contrast to the Deep South banjos and gospel choirs of Ambrose Tompkins' delightful Running on Grass, which could easily find its way onto the Coen brothers' O Brother, Where Art Thou soundtrack.

Or the angelic symphony that greets the start of Jem Finer and Andrew Kotting's oddly surreal Rockaway - one of many obscure delights on the album.

Dance also gets a look in, with the likes of Whitey's Twoface and Alter Ego's underground club anthem (and Mr Scruff influenced knob-twiddler) Rocker emerging as the better examples of the new wave.

Given that the album is light on really big names, however, it remains a collectors' piece for those with their eye on new and emerging talent, rather than someone looking for a quick-fix instant classic.

It can delight and frustrate in equal measure, but it does serve the Rough Trade name (and ethos) well, making it a recommended purchase for anyone who likes their music to offer something different.

Who knows, it may even inform some album choices for the coming year?



Track listing:
Disc: 1
1. Susanna And The Magical Orchestra - Believer
2. Mara Carlyle - Bravely Born(e)
3. Magoo - Peace, Love and Blood
4. CocoRosie - Butterscotch
5. Ambrose Tompkins - Running On Grass
6. Britta Phillips & Dean Wareham - Your Baby (Can't Stand The Rain)
7. The Cryin' Shames - Please Stay
8. Holly Golightly - On The Fire
9. Willy Mason - Live It Up
10. Jolie Holland - Old Fashioned Morphine
11. Elliott Smith - Let's Get Lost
12. Micah P. Hinson And The Gospel Of Progress - I Still Remember
13. Candi Staton - You Don't Love Me No More
14. Sunburned Hand of the Man - Buried Pleasure
15. Sons And Daughters - Start To End
16. Jad Fair - The Bang Of The Whistle
17. Coil - Sex With Sun Ra
18. Jem Finer and Andrew Kotting - Rockaway
19. Sonic Youth - Dude Ranch Nurse
20. Animal Collective - College
21. Pony Up! - I Heard You Got Action
22. Cornershop - Topknot
23. Alan Glenn - Stone Fox Chase

Disc: 2
1. Mordant Music - Shackleton
2. Brooks - Do The Math
3. Beastellabeast - The Final Mistake
4. The Go! Team - Ladyflash
5. Cobra Killer - L.A. Shaker
6. Schwab - DJs In A Row
7. Whitey - Twoface
8. Throbbing Gristle - United (2 Lone Swordsmen mix)
9. Unknown Artist - Madame Foyer
10. The Knife - Kino
11. Le Tigre - This Island
12. Mu - We Love Guys Named Luke
13. Wanda Jackson - Funnel Of Love
14. Whirlwind Heat - Flamingo Lawns
15. Liars - There's Always Room On The Broom
16. Measles Mumps Rubella - Fountain Of Youth
17. Alter Ego - Rocker (Radio Edit)
18. Ten Minutes With My Dad - Party With The Devil
19. Do Me Bad Things - The Song Rides
20. New Black - Hot Box
21. Bloc Party - Little Thoughts
22. Brakes - Pick Up The Phone
23. The Soviettes - Ten
24. Death From Above 1979 - Romantic Rights
25. Coachwhips - Thee Alarm
26. Todd - Little Dipper To Squirrel

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