Old Enough 2 Know Better
15 Years of Merge Records
It’s kind of funny that in the past couple months, after years of wasting my money on half-assed compilations just so I could get a song by a favorite artist, I’ve received free review copies of three of the best label comps (Merge, Costellation, Temporary Residence) ever to grace my music collection. I’d be hard pressed to pick a favorite among the three, but Merge handily beats out the competition in terms of sheer girth. With 61 tracks, Old Enough 2 Know Better is bound to have something to offer even passing fans of indie rock. The first two discs are comprised of old album tracks by the label’s best … and others. They provide a fascinating, non-chronological cross-section of indie rock from the onset of the ’90s to the present. It’s great to witness Merge transform from a straight up “rock” label, releasing Polvo and Superchunk, ease through the mid-’90s with way too much Pavement derived content (Butterglory, Guv’nor, etc.) and even have a brief dalliance with metal (Breadwinner, Pipe). Their current roster is the epitome of eclectic, boasting such disparate heavy weights as punk forefathers Buzzcocks, Nashville soulsters Lambchop, Ex-Elephant 6 stars Essex Green and electronic avant-weirdos Third Eye Foundation.
This brings me to the third disc, which is the real prize here. It collects rare and unreleased tracks from Merge’s still burgeoning acts, along with some “from the vaults” material. I’m a sucker for Scottish pop and British chamber-rock, so Camera Obscura’s punched up synth fest “San Francisco Song” and The Clientele’s autumnal revisioning of Jimmy Webb’s “Where the Universes Are” stand as the obvious treats for me. Other highlights include Radar Brothers’ ashen slowcore plod “Painted Forest Fire,” the frosty polar bear picnic of Portastatic’s “Some Small History,” Ladybug Transistor’s nighttime carnival in the “Jersey Streets,” Shark Quest’s Jaws-theme-in-the-Indian-Ocean-via-the-Ozarks “Monster” and Spoon’s faithful, but restrained cover of Yo La Tengo’s “Decora.” There really aren’t too many independent label’s that have lasted as long or have consistently put out good material as Merge. Here’s to hoping I get a chance to review the second one of these fifteen years from now.