As much as we like to moan pseudo-eloquent about the turgidity of modern pop music, there’s still a heartbeat, a dancing electrocardiogram line of musical activity that proves there are remnants of something better out there, especially for us healthy musical obsessives. Time and again, there are those certain mildly to moderately obscure albums that seem as if they’ve been time-capsuled from some different musical era, some age that writers call halcyon and everyone else calls golden, just for you — some strange nexus of time and sound interconnecting at the center of a spinning disc just to place you in the pocket of a particularly creative moment in music history, captured within layers of sonic laminate. Robert Johnson’s The Complete Recordings, Nico’s Marble Index, just about everything Tim Buckley did before nose-diving into the L.A. blooze of his last LP — albums such as these prove that the electrical activity within the swollen, wounded heart of rock and pop has not entirely flat-lined.
Maybe it’s an overstatement to nominate the twee-popped Labrador 100 to such ranks, but only a mild one at worst. Consisting of one hundred tracks from each of the one hundred releases from one of Sweden’s premier distributors of all things indie-pop, Labrador 100 is a wildly hydra-necked yet cohesive document of the evolution of one of the world’s smaller music scenes/genres/eras, one dominated as equally by the influence of Kevin Shields’s Fender Jaguar Wall of Squall as it is the jangly pop croons of acts such as the Cocteau Twins and the Sundays, with an occasional dance-club flourish of discotheqia or the group vocal punch of 1950’s doo-wop for good measure.
Scan the chronological track list and in the five hours between the icy turbulence and whispered vocals of Floor Power’s “Car, Travel Far!” (Labrador’s first release) and the ambient throb and Ian Curtis croon of the Radio Dept.’s joy divided “We Made the Team” (the hundredth), you’ll find the lovely chill-pop Portishead-space of Club 8, the buzzing, dejected dance-pulse of Tribeca, and the early shoegazed scrape and breathy vocals of the Acid House Kings, along with a slew of treasured unknown gems and forgotten, near-perfect blasts of indie-pop exuberance.
Like the Nuggets: Original Artyfacts from the First Psychedelic Era boxed sets, the music of Labrador 100 reaches out from the fog of history to dizzy you with its secret, hidden wonders, to remind you of the clutches of creativity, wit, and beauty that exist just beneath the sheen of sterility that can cover most of the cultural landscape. And if you can find that in a boxed set from the same country that produced ABBA, well, you can find it anywhere.
Labrador 100: http://www.labrador.se/releases/labrador100.php3