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V/A - Frisco Styles

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Artist: V/A

Album: Frisco Styles

Label: Now Rainbow

Review date: Sep. 16, 2003

Frisco Styles is a two-disc compilation of songs from 48 bands that call the greater San Francisco Bay Area home. Both discs focus on the city’s reluctance to define rock and roll, as agit-punk, dance-rock, dub, garage, and indie rock collide in a sub-$15 goodie bag with a lot more sweet than sour.

John Dwyer’s own Coachwhips start the party with the delightful “Prisoner 119”, replete with the repeated squawking of “Oh my god!” The group has never sounded thicker on record, and the not-quite-overwhelming distortion becomes a well-harnessed motif throughout the disc. Touched By A Janitor contributes “Output Negative Space”, which sounds like mellow Oxes with more instruments. Nam harnesses a sound akin to the Melvins covering the Beach Boys. The ever-stellar Caesura delivers a longer track “Hammer” that trills and builds into some nervous, thoroughly askew post-punk. Tarentel changes up the mood a bit with the highly viscous, delicately quiet track “Latency”. Condor strike back with their own newer-wave arithmetic: simple, synth-heavy rawk. Veronica Lipgloss and the Evil Eyes end up previewing the latter half of the disc, as their ragged disco skree mimics the similar high-end grooves of Dynasty (feat. Indra Dunis of Numbers on drums), Erase Errata, A Tension and the Quails. All those groups add great songs, particularly Dynasty’s unsettling noir-pop. But Total Shutdown (predictably) steals the show, blasting pure-climax no-jazz hardcore weirdness in every direction on the brutally perfect track “The Pond”.

The second disc keeps things partially mellower, although the highlights tend to relocate the fulminating distortion of the first disc. Crack: We Are Rock contributes “Colonial House”, a dance floor necessity/techno deformity. Dwyer appears again as a faux-German sexpot in Zeigenbock Kopf on “Sex…Etc”, a speaker-overloading industrial-erotica anthem. Dwyer isn’t the only reappearance, as Total Shutdown bassist Nate Denver adds an acoustic track titled “I’m Too Afraid To Kill You” under the Nate Denver’s Neck moniker. With all the current publicity for late ’70s no-wave, and the recent, incipient or nonexistent (choose one) revival, San Francisco’s band incest is certainly worth noting in comparison to the rampant space trading of New York’s yesteryear skronksters.

There are some weak points and even some tedium on the second disc. Also, the darkly consistent tUMULT label, known for putting out brilliant metal (Burmese) and sooty folk mash-ups (OCS, Iran) is curiously absent. And there is no rap.

Regardless, Frisco Styles remains a worthy introductory map to an exciting locale. Scenes will always boast about their scene, but few can reproduce San Francisco’s depth of credentials.

By A.A. Davidson

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