Flashing Red

New compilation finds the local indie scene burning brightly

After nearly 18 months of anticipation, setbacks and delays, Valley music aficionados and compophiles are finally hailing the release of the local music sampler Not One Light Red. The disc is a joint venture between Modified impresario Scott Tennent's fledgling This Argonaut label and Before Braille singer Dave Jensen's Sunset Alliance imprint -- home to Five Speed and Redfield, among others. The project just hit local shelves last month, with a nationwide release set for next week. Tennent says the mission behind the disc was not only to provide a snapshot of the current indie scene -- specifically the one centered in and around his downtown performance space; significantly, the disc is subtitled A Modified Document -- but also to expose Phoenix bands to a larger audience.

"Basically, we've seen this whole scene getting a lot bigger and a lot better and we thought we should find a way to let more people know about it. My feeling is that Phoenix has everything that any other great music scene has -- good venues, good bands, good record stores -- everything, except for a record label that's focused on our scene," Tennent says.

"Olympia [Washington] has Kill Rock Stars and K Records, D.C. has Dischord, Chicago has Touch and Go. A lot of the bands here get left out in the cold because they get to a level where they're as good as any national band, but they don't have anybody to reach out and give them a little exposure. We thought we'd at least take a first step and get something out there that can let other people around the country know that they're here."

Back in the U.S. . . . er, Tempe: Rich Hopkins' (right) Luminarios (featuring former MC5er Michael Davis, left) come to town this week.
Back in the U.S. . . . er, Tempe: Rich Hopkins' (right) Luminarios (featuring former MC5er Michael Davis, left) come to town this week.
The new Modified comp features exclusive tracks from Go Big Casino and Reuben's Accomplice.
The new Modified comp features exclusive tracks from Go Big Casino and Reuben's Accomplice.

Although this is not the first such collection to attempt to document the state of Valley music -- some will recall 1999's Libations Unlimited: Phoenix 1997-1999 from the Sentry Press label, a comp that shares a number of bands with Not One Light Red -- it is perhaps the most cohesive attempt to bring together a wide range of Valley bands operating underneath the mainstream radar. From the Joy Division-inspired noise of Death of Marat to the Rocket From the Crypt-fueled muse of Pollen, the 17 cuts included here effectively convey both the depth of talent and range of styles within what's commonly perceived as the narrow confines of the "indie rock" scene.

Kicking off the collection is former Seven Storey Mountain main man Lance Lammers (under the revised Seven Storey moniker, the result of the group's quasi-dissolution this past year) with "Second Rome." Playing all the instruments himself, Lammers' bedroom recording finds his patented gruff 'n' growl in fine form on the first bit of new material to emerge from the Seven Storey camp since last spring's Deep Elm EP Based on a True Story.

Elsewhere, Reuben's Accomplice offers up the gorgeous acoustic rumination "Leave the City" to whet the appetites of fans eagerly awaiting its debut long player, I Blame the Scenery. Also included are Not One-only cuts from Five Speed (the charmingly dissonant "Blood Over Wine"), . . . And Guppies Eat Their Young (the atmospheric "Feel Like Another") as well as previously released efforts from Fightshy, Pinewood Derby and others.

For those interested in exhuming the dead, the disc also boasts a trio of cuts from bands that have recently passed on: Sea of Cortez, Chula and Tennent's own Half Visconte.

"Even though they've broken up, it wouldn't have been an accurate representation of Modified if we wouldn't have had those groups on there," says Tennent of his decision to include bands that are no longer active. "When [Sea of Cortez] was around, they were a staple at Modified. And Chula was a bright star that burned out real fast, but an important band also. I couldn't have done it justice without referencing them."

Despite a plethora of well-regarded contributors, the 800-pound gorilla (and chief attraction) of Not One Light Red remains Jimmy Eat World front man Jimmy Adkins. Adkins checks in twice on the disc, handling production chores on the Reuben's Accomplice track, as well as leading his own combo, Go Big Casino, through the sterling original "So Proud of You." The cut marks the first official appearance of Adkins' orchestral-pop side project on wax. Recorded live at Modified during the big-band's debut gig in December '99, the track is a breezy, bell-heavy slice of jangle wistfulness, merged with a melodic undercurrent that, strangely enough, conjures up some of Ronnie Lane's more sensitive moments.

Tennent, for one, knows the importance of Adkins' drawing power as a calling card for the compilation.

"Definitely, that's the thing that's the major selling point -- it's not the only selling point -- but it is the big one," he says. "And it's the song that's allowing us to get our foot in the door with distributors and may help make it a potential seller outside of Arizona. It's one of those things that will help draw the kids in, and then once they're in, there's enough stuff that's different or good to keep them interested."

Also a ubiquitous presence on Not One Light Red are the members of power-pop combo Pollen. The group's sonic brain trust -- drummer Bob Hoag and guitarist Kevin Scanlon -- do the production honors on Five Speed's entry, while singer Dan Hargest leads his side outfit Sextet through the mini-epic instrumental "Procession Part II." Pollen itself checks in with the rarely heard "A Clear Complexion," a number from its days with Wind Up records, and mixed by legendary Ardent Studios knob turner John Hampton (Gin Blossoms, Mudhoney).

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