Before hip-hop artists took it over with their slew of mixtapes, the compilation record was owned by hardcore. From Dischord’s 1982 scene-setting Flex Your Head to the Troubleman Mixtape series released by Troubleman Unlimited, the compilation has been a powerful tool for introducing musical ideas to a broad audience. But recently, be it due to decreasing manufacturing costs or a desire for financial gain, compilations have been less about content and more about self-promotion (Gold Standard Laboratories’ fiftieth-release compilation was released in Skyscraper Magazine and featured little new material). But 80 Records and We’re Not Broke Yet from the burgeoning post-hardcore label Level Plane falls into the gray area: it’s a decent effort, but it lacks retrospective information about the label and its roster.
One of the two discs in the set includes previously released songs, chosen by fans of the label; the other includes rarities from various Level Plane bands and their side projects. Because the first disc’s tracklist was chosen by fans via voting, only the label’s most recent releases, including tracks from the Holy Shroud, Hot Cross, Amanda Woodward and the One A.M. Radio are included. It’s mostly enjoyable, but some of the label’s most formative bands, including Pg. 99, Ruhaeda, You and I, and Saetia, were left out. The notion of letting the fans choose the songs was noble, but it left gaping holes in the compilation’s timeline.
The liner notes don’t do any better. The booklet features no information about the label’s history and where it’s going. It instead takes up the space with pictures of album covers, which can seen on the label’s Web site, and with more information. The rarities disc has some interesting songs, including “Nine Minutes of Non-Fiction” the instrumental offering from Neil Perry, but it does not redeem the compilation.
For as influential a label as Level Plane, a milestone release like this could have been packed with inside stories and unreleased tracks from every era of its existence. Instead, the label settled for a decent batch of songs and ultimately sold itself short.