Intended Play 2012 – Review

va-intendedplay200Intended Play 2012

(Matador Records)
by Scott Deckman

In January, Matador/True Panther Sounds released Intended Play 2012, a sampler LP of new and what the labels consider classic songs from various artists for the outrageous sum of $1.98. Well as if $1.98 wasn’t a low enough price tag in this age of freebie Internet music, they’re now offering it for nothing, scratch, nada. (But if you want the sampler, download it now; it won’t stay up there forever.) Here then, is the play-by-play.

On the compilation’s opener, The Young “Don’t Hustle For Love,” but their crunchy mid-tempo rock does shuffle to a sinister beat partially reminiscent of Queens of the Stone Age’s “No One Knows.” This is much cuter than anything I can recall Josh Homme coming up with though. It’s darkly catchy, too.

Indie rock singer/songwriter Kurt Vile tells us “Life’s A Beach.” To be honest, it’s kind of a bland beach. But Kurt’s been busy making that advertisement money. Good for him. The heralded Girls‘ “My Ma” reminds one of what Creedence Clearwater Revival might sound like if they came out today, only if John Fogerty had a whispery vox.

Ceremony‘s “Hysteria” brings the rock via big drums and riffs, a metallic take on indie rock. They fancy themselves a punk rock band, but they sound a bit more mainstream here, like a Brit-fronted ode to Joan Jett & the Blackhearts’ version of “I Love Rock N’ Roll.” (The band actually hails from Rohnert Park, California.) Whatever they are, this is a good song.

Tanlines‘ “Brothers” rides an ’80s mien amid metronome and a voice I can’t quite place. It’s familiar and masculine. Lee Ranaldo fixes his classic rock jones while sounding more and more like the Monkees’ Michael Nesmith. Miles away from the atonal weirdness of Sonic Youth (that has nonetheless produced its share of greatness), “Off The Wall” is a gentle, almost jangly composition, and a nice change.

Fucked Up manage a strange feat: Their vocals sound more hardcore than their music. There’s a Fugazi “Arpeggiator” feel to “Into The Light,” but the rough voice is pure punk bile. Esben & the Witch‘s “Hexagons II” probably means a lot to the band in question, but its mix of pleading vocals and electronics don’t exactly excite.

“All Waters” from Perfume Genius pines for the profound with what sounds like somber orchestral strings and plaintive pipes, like when U2 were full of themselves (wait, when were U2 not full of themselves?), but the short ditty never coalesces into a proper song. Cold Cave showers us with “Confetti (radio edit).” I could live without this fey, ’80s Depeche Mode knockoff. The title makes me wonder what they edited out exactly, the good stuff?

Bringing up the rear we get indie kingpin Stephen Malkmus. Seeing the band live that made him famous, Pavement, in the late ’90s – or more aptly, the band he helped make famous – Malkmus rubbed me the wrong way, with a seeming disdain for his audience (though I’ll admit, the overrated group had some good tunes; “Greenlander,” “Cut Your Hair,” and “Shady Lane” come to mind). Here, Stephen Malkmus & the Jicks give us “Polvo,” and call me ignorant, but I still can’t see what all the fuss is about. I think anyone can get up there and bang out tuneless, obscure, aimless art rock and call themselves genius. I sometimes wonder if that’s his point, that he’s taking the piss. If so, bully for him.

Intended Play 2012 shouts out what’s good about indie rock, and what’s bad, in equal measures. The first two-thirds or so of the collection has some inspired moments, a sampling of artists who, unless you’re in the know, you’ve probably never heard of. The last third or so of the compilation, starting with Esben & the Witch’s “Hexagons II,” is mostly forgettable. Sometimes I wish all these bands who probably worship the Ramones would take after them: Write some catchy, fun, guitar-driven songs. Being weird and arcane for the sake of being weird and arcane makes you, well, weird and arcane. Most of us are weird enough on our own as it is, we don’t need to look in the mirror. Give us something we want to listen to.

Guess what? Who cares? The damn thing’s free. So don’t take my (or anyone else’s) word for it, get those fingers ready and decide for yourself.