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It's a sad testament to pop music that it's arrived at a point where imitation is regularly mistaken for invention. There is little that music junkies love as much as easy reference points, and it seems the quickest way to curry both cash and credibility is to mine the familiar...

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It's a sad testament to pop music that it's arrived at a point where imitation is regularly mistaken for invention. There is little that music junkies love as much as easy reference points, and it seems the quickest way to curry both cash and credibility is to mine the familiar and market it as revolutionary.

Indie rock might be the most culpable of grand larceny, incessantly mimeographing both craft and kitsch and presenting them as autographed originals. And so The Modern World, a double-disc compilation from the usually irreproachable Cherry Red label, falls quick victim to the same sort of cynical game of rock 'n' roll Simon Says. Thirty-two bands deliver their take on the Mod era, with only a handful bothering to improve upon or expand the borders of the original. Those that do are easily noticed.

The Nick Rossi Set's vibrant lounge exotica quivers and jumps like B-grade porn, all grinding organs and ejaculating brass. Likewise the Art School's gutsy wacka-chicka funk and the jubilant bikini beach anthem "Jennifer" by tenured popsters Modesty Blaise. "Dictionary" by the Pills is a soaring pop number that sidles up nicely alongside Squeeze, and the wacko psychedelic cult-chant "Trust Me" by Divine Orange culls favor by sounding sinister as a snake charmer.

But too often the compilation indulges in the great sin of sloth that has swallowed whole roughly half of indie pop. Pleasure Beach's stomach-churning Muzak reading of "I Feel the Earth Move" is all winks and giggles, and bands like Sidonie and the Pacifics follow their idols so slavishly that their compositions are as flat as club soda.

It's a curious misstep on the part of Cherry Red, which has built a legacy of near-flawless product (its reissues, in fact, are not to be missed). It would have been better suited to slim the collection to a single disc, or, better yet, release a compilation of the original artifacts. That, at least, wouldn't be so easily faulted for lack of originality.

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