StarTime International’s Supercuts is the mix your friend, the one who knows all the obscure bands, made for you to play on your Sunday mornings. It’s a compilation of neither a sound nor an era, but instead, a mood. It’s a compilation of what music sounds like prior to being packaged for the masses, before being touched up and then fixed again. It’s a compilation of voices from around the world, sometimes singing about love, other times about personal achievement or a hometown.
The Brooklyn label StarTime International picked sixteen tracks from demos received during 2002, creating what they hoped would be a CD with “good artists and good songs.” They have, for the most part, done this. Take the album opener, “Wretched Boy” by the High Strung. It has just the right amount of whine to it, still staying close to its pop roots with lots of “oohs” and “aahs” over a fantastic bass line. All this while maintaining a raw edge, as if it had just been recorded.
There is very little time between each track, thereby making it hard to know where one song ends and the next begin. “Wretched Boy” seamlessly turns into “Guilty” by the Mood Elevator (what Brendan Benson and the Wellfed Boys call themselves when playing different instruments). These transitions, however, are a double-edged sword; in some places it enhances the two singles, in others it actually takes away. “Japanese Store” by Philadelphia’s Capitol Years is one of the louder tracks on the CD. Yet coming after “Everybody,” a song by the Witnesses that overflows with attitude and snottiness, it looses a lot of its spark, paling in comparison to the prior song; “Japanese Store” becomes the not-as-loud, not-as-fast younger brother of “Everybody.”
Although filled with ’60s-esque pop songs (“I Wanna Take You Out (In My Holiday Sweater)” by Pas/cal is one of the most infectious tracks on the album), there is still a good variety of sounds. The electro-pop “Stars” by the Australian group Cut Copy seems to come straight out of the early ’80s, synthesizer and all. “Hull’s Too Good For England” by Salako could be a cringe-worthy single were it not for lyrics that caused me to break out in laughter. Lines including “Hull’s to good for England/ I’d like to cut us off and drift away/ We could fish again and have our day/ The women would wear the latest clothes/ And the men could tell the racist jokes,” paired with a pounding piano and fluttering violin push this track over the top in the best way possible.
With this diversity of tracks, it is no surprise that some are not as good as others; yet the overall feeling remains strong. This compilation quickly found its way to my car’s CD player and has remained there since. The upbeat attitude matched with enough quirkiness and originality promises an interesting, and certainly enjoyable, listen.