Various Artists : Rough Trade Shops 2002 : Counter Culture

There's quite a spread on offer here

The staff of the Rough Trade shops have always been keener than most to help their customers, but this is ridiculous. This is the fourth compilation in what seems like a matter of minutes produced by the staff of the shop that spawned the label – and this is the most immediately instructive. Previously we’ve zipped through the best of the label’s backpages, and also taken a crash course in what they deem essential rock’n’roll and electronica. On ‘Counter Culture’, the shops’ staff spend two hours running through their most essential tracks of the last twelve months. Spanning the entire alternative universe, it makes for an exhilarating, varied ride. No bad metal either.

And of course, yesterday’s counter culture often makes for today’s mainstream hits – as evidenced by the early inclusion of the recent number two chart hit, Electric Six‘s ‘Danger! High Voltage’. There are plenty of other golden nuggets in this trove too.

Rubicks confound their legend as the world’s most shambolic live band with ‘Counter Culture”s most arresting contribution, the heart-bursting cold wave of ‘Midas’. The Be Good Tanyas offer a glimpse of what country music unburdened of cliche sounds like with the aching ‘Broken Telephone’, there’s great old school input from Tom Waits and ESG, while Baxter Dury, Schneider TM, Polyphonic Spree and Prefuse 73 ably spread their distinct new messages a little further. The ferocious ragga apocalypse of The Bug vs The Rootsman’s ‘Killer’ also makes a welcome early intervention. Indeed, the first five tracks feature ragga mash-up, high voltage rock’n’roll, electronic cut-up, Germanic electro, and country. There’s quite a spread on offer here.

It’s not all good, naturally. And there’s a time (roughly an hour and a quarter in) when the indie must stop. But there are forty-one tracks to plunge into and if you don’t emerge with at least one new love affair then, friend, your local motorway service station can take care of all your listening needs.

Ted Kessler