Since its formation in 2006, Oxford-based label Alcopop! Records has built itself quite the reputation among music lovers, so much so that in the recent annual awards of this very iste, it was voted Best Label by its readers.
With a roster including the likes of Johnny Foreigner, Stagecoach, My First Tooth and Gunning For Tamar, and an ethos of releasing party-friendly music done “the right way”, it’s easy to see why it inspires a legion of devotees. This release is the latest in the Alcopopular compilation series, famed for its innovative release methods (it has previously been distributed as a message in a bottle and a restaurant menu), and this is no exception. This edition comes with an Ordnance Survey map, more than familiar to any former distressed Scouts/Duke of Edinburgh-ers, showing the different locations of the 20 bands involved – some names are more familiar than others, but this is a great chance to showcase not only Alcopop! names of present and future, but also exciting music from the more suburban regions of England.
If you’re familiar with Alcopop!, even if you’re not immediately familiar with the bands here, you’ll know they’ll usually fall under the general umbrella of “slightly quirky music to bring a smile to your face”. There are some promising names to behold; Ace City Racers, for example, hailing from Glasgow, get things off to a fine start with their self-titled album era Blur themed slacker rock, and London’s Wild Mercury Sound head for the stratosphere with ‘Miss Frost’, putting one in the mind of the stadium rock of Coldplay or Muse if they weren’t so horridly M.O.R. A possible sign of things to come in 2013 is shown by Summer Camp and Fear Of Men – a hazy mix of Best Coast, Camera Obscura and The Cocteau Twins, these names should be hot on the tongue of the blogosphere (is that even still a word?)
The main downfall of this compilation, however, lies in its sequencing; everyone knows a good mixtape should judge the rises and falls with putting similar tempos next to each other, but the faster material is relentlessly upbeat and slower, acoustic stuff feels like such an arresting change of pace, it makes 20 tracks, already a bit of an uphill struggle, turn into a bit of an ordeal. There aren’t necessarily any bad tracks here, and the fluctuating tempos won’t necessarily be so much of a problem for the shuffling iGeneration. Some of the more “embryonic” efforts also see the attention slipping, – Oxford’s The Cellar Family’s ham-fisted take on Pixies isn’t a particularly crowning glory, but overall, it’s a solid effort. The compilation is a little less than the sum of its parts, but the idea of exposing some newer names to the wider public is fully realised – in the days before Spotify and Last.fm, the formative years of music nerds like yours truly were spent seeking out label samplers, and one would hope the next generation of AlcoFans will have their heads turned by this release.