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V/A - A Charabang Trip to the Lights

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Artist: V/A

Album: A Charabang Trip to the Lights

Label: Earworm

Review date: Apr. 28, 2003

A Joyous Farewell


The evolution of the 45 is much the same as a trilobyte. Long standing. Staying near the bottom. Never changing its main feature: pop length. For decades, a pop song was only as long as the jukebox could hold.

As punk and indie started to infiltrate high school, 45s resumed their tact. Introducing bands, small pressings, and just darling things. And the sense of urgency remained. Hear it immediately, as if it would melt away. And some did.

The disposability of the 7" makes it, to some, collectible. So many independent and local 7"s have been discarded or sold by the pound that it makes one's head spin. Yet at last check, some were going for $500 on Ebay [signed Elvis, natch... damn, there's a 45 car stereo for $999.99...].

They're cheap, certainly, but a charmed life has kept them in the loop also. None of this comes as a surprise to collectors anywhere, but it is here where this lesson becomes a eulogy: Earworm Records is no more.

Not only was their specialty a kind of fluid pop and electronic sound, but their devotion to the format made it even more appropriate. Talent like Hood, the Gerbils, E.A.R. and Yo La Tengo kept it consistant. A Charabang Trip to the Lights is a collection of their final singles, never committed to vinyl [a charabang being a kind of horse-drawn bus]. Dominic Martin, it's gleeful if sometimes peevish progenitor, always seemed to keep Earworm on everyone's lips. And the Earworm ethos remains devoted to the end.

The CD does present itself, however, as six 7"s, each one with cover art inside. Our first 7" comes from Salvatore, the best way to kick off the CD. It's everything Earworm loves: deeply rooted in underground music devotion [they know their Neu! and Yo La Tengo, for example] and as dark as they can get. The Cranebuilders, from Liverpool, recall both the Cranes and the Dambuilders. Like many an Earworm single, there's a c86 affection, a Mellotron soul, some delightful vox and pop spunk. [Turns out Cranebuilders is a reference to Cranes, the defunct record store they met in, so go figure].

House of Mexico, our third installment, gets right to the Earworm aesthetic. Vocals juiced with reverb, distant drum splatter and large-scale distortion, 4-track style. Their name springs from a furniture store in Dublin, but the "House of Love" connotation is not inappropriate. The massively productive Shimmer Kids Underpop Association has a thing for Creedence Clearwater Revival, the Beach Boys and Elephant Six. Glasgow's Interferons, in our fifth chapter do the Glasgow shuffle. They are on "indefinite hiatus." And Landshipping acts as a kind of epilogue. Doing Cabaret Voltaire and Jesus and Mary Chain equal justice.

The ongoing referential sounds and home-crafted production lead to a feeling that one is being beaten over the head with indie elitism. And also the eerie feeling that we're just spinning our wheels. We're past the peak of indie-pop, but there will always be a substantial scene, so long as there are college stations, basement-level record shops and second-hand gear.

Championed by John Peel and vinyl clerks up and down the U.K., fed through Cargo Distribution. Smeared by thousands of chip-greased fingertips, Earworm 7"s joins the ranks of Slumberland, Sarah, and Strange Fruit as imprints which will grace the walls of shops worldwide. As surely as they help build the indie-pop underground, they see it recede.

And as for our little friend the 45, it's an unknown future once again [even Earworm put their last six on CD]. Perhaps it will find a way to increase its relevance down the line. But the stacks and stacks of orphaned indie 7"s from the 90s would fill a dairy farm, and may be too overwhelming even for a modest revival. But their continuous, fetish-enabled timeline might well end with Earworm.

And that's surely not such a bad thing.

By David Day

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