Various Artists – The Tenth WaveVarious Artists – The Tenth Wave – album review

Big Stir Records


Out now

The latest collection mined from Big Stir’s Digital Singles Series, with 22 tracks making up this 11th and final instalment. Featuring mylittlebrother, Nick Frater, The Speed Of Sound and The Armoires’ incognito recordings, these compilations reach the end of the line with this new edition. Ian Canty says farewell to a real tonic in pop music form…

As we reach the final edition of Big Stir’s series of compilations drawn from their Digital Singles with The Tenth Wave, there are no signs of any let up in quality. On the contrary, what we have here are another 22 top notch nuggets of golden pop music, the kind that make one’s heart leap and day a good deal brighter for the hearing. As was mostly the case with the previous long players, each artist logically enough yields two songs, an a side and its reverse. As there is a lot to get through, let’s stop shilly-shallying and get weaving.

The Tenth Wave begins with mylittlebrother toting the darn near-irresistible guitar-led swing of Howl. Their flipside Sorry About Amsterdam is a charming, theatrical number just ripe for the pop charts. Then Nick Frater sashays in with the excellent and very catchy California Waits, with his other tune The Afterparty being a more laidback and reflective thang, but just as tempting.

During the timespan that The Tenth Wave covers, label stalwarts The Armoires traded under a number of pseudonyms that eventually made up the excellent Incognito album (reviewed here). As October Surprise they cover John Cale’s Paris 1919 sweetly, but with great gusto. (Just Can’t See) The Attraction, another October Surprise number, is a case of bracing folk rock with some well-honed dual vocals. A further Armoires’ alias DFE crops up with another pairing, the power crunch of I Say We Take Off And Nuke The Site, which is brill and a cover of Christie’s Yellow River that’s a lot of fun too.

Scouse singer Whelligan’s contributions to The Tenth Wave are a delight. Jamie Whelligan grants the listener of dose of dreamy psychedelia on Rabid Hole, which amongst its boiling cauldron of inventiveness has a kind of hauntology sound that made me think of the music in the comedy series Look Around You. His second offering Anyone Who Never Had A Heart hits the sweet spot where country rock crosses over psych, a weird but wonderful bundle of arch fun.

If I didn’t already know that The Incurables were from Detroit that would be my wild guess of their roots on hearing Funhouse. I’m also guessing the song title isn’t a fluke either and this tune keenly utilises HM guitar thrills and rock-solid percussion for their spiky, manic and highly enjoyable ends. Muskrat Love, song two of theirs, is equipped with the kind of tuneful punk attack that makes me for one want to find out more about this band pronto.

NPFO Stratagem, featuring Steven Wilson of Plasticsoul and Spygenius’ Peter Watts, cover Ringo’s Back Off Boogaloo well, but then do a 180 degree turn and come up with an absolute pearl, a slow but ripping version of The Dead Kennedys’ Nazi Punks Fuck Off (Lounge Hallucination Version). There’s a big production late 1960s pop feel to Popdudes’ O-o-oh Child and their Share The Land is properly anthemic, handclappin”n’ footstompin’ goodness.

Having recently waxed lyrical about Manchester’s The Speed Of Sound’s Replicant single (reviewed here), their Radio Safe is another zinger. This one fizzes with punk glam energy and a finely judged guitar line propels things along. Their b side No Kicks zips through nippily too. Coming from the reissue of the wonderful Allyson Seconds & Anton Barbeau album Bag Of Kittens (reviewed here), Tie My Laves is utterly disarming, mysterious and beautiful. Then they bless up with Octagon, a jangly folk pop number with Anton taking the lead. Finally, Icecream Hands’ No Weapon But Love is modern power pop done just right, with their closing salvo Can You Feel My Love being an acoustic driven pop beauty with plenty of brawn.

Lastly I would just like to say a few words about this being the final Wave compilation. The Digital Singles Series will continue and no doubt go from strength to strength, but this is it as far as these CD compendiums go. Now I don’t want to draw any false equivalency with other, more famous compilation sets from the past, but like any great various artists LP all the 11 volumes of Wave tie in tightly to the timeframe of their creation, whilst also building up into something of lasting value. They will stand as both soundtracks to the times and rattling good music collections to depend on.

All good things come to an end, so not wanting to finish on a sad note, we’re left with 11 albums full of the kind of tough but tender pop sounds that instantly made me feel a touch better about life and quickly lodged themselves in my synapses. If you are coming to this record new and haven’t heard any of the previous editions, what a joy you have in store. It’s been great to be involved in the series in a small way and The Tenth Wave is a hell of a way to go out on.

All words by Ian Canty – see his author profile here

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