Music News

Various Artists

StarTime International, the nascent one-man label, sits in the heart of a lo-fi cultural revolution, namely the parade of swaggering, throwback rockers and skinny-tie, ripped-fishnet fashion plates crawling these days out of Brooklyn and into parts unknown. Two years ago, Isaac Green's creation signed the Walkmen and French Kicks, easily two of the most creative and original new-Brooklyn bands, and consequently built a credible brand name among the young, cute, hip rock crowd. That meant, of course, that Green's mailbox overflowed with demos and sterling oddities from a nation full of garage-recording hopefuls.

The 28-year-old Green turned his conundrum -- how to honor the good music and keep himself and his operation sane? -- into a textbook case of resourcefulness. Supercuts, StarTime's new compilation, collects the best of the songs those artists submitted, and in doing so makes a startlingly cohesive album out of it. It possesses a peculiar unity, and, without the liner notes, could be perceived as the work of a single genius. Maybe the bands' full demos stunk and maybe they didn't -- they ain't getting no deals nohow -- but Green seems to believe that everyone has at least one classic three-minute song in them, and he celebrates the wonder of simple, dumb-luck pop with this exercise.

The songs, by rising indie-boy circuit bands like the Mood Elevator, the Capitol Years and the High Strung (whose "Wretched Boy" here is pure pop licorice), are quirky and melodic, hooky and passionate, sweet and confessional. All but one take less than four minutes to unfold. They draw from an organic energy that never dies; these bands sound like they're having a blast. Most of the artists have an affection for the gifts of Paul McCartney and John Lennon. Salako's "Hull's Too Good for England" is so "Fool on the Hill," they should cut Sir Paul a check. But without an A&R man spying on the proceedings, they don't have to care. The Beatles still rock, right? Supercuts, in presenting its sonic photo album of that innocence, is super, indeed.

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Christopher O'Connor