REVIEW album Old Subbacultcha Old Subbacultcha

Fierce Panda issue a softly sad compilation album in the shape of Endangered (2004-2014)

Old Subbacultcha

Old Subbacultcha

The label that discovered Coldplay celebrate 20 years in business with a set of some of the weepiest songs in the oeuvre. Don't pack the razor blades though, there's more than a shred of hope here.

Fierce Panda – Endangered (2004-2014) OUT NOW via Fierce Panda

As the label who discovered both Coldplay and Keane, it would be easy to toss lazy jabs and accusations of at Fierce Panda. Look past the labels brief dalliance with 'bedwetting' indie however (though I still think the first two Coldplay albums are wonderful), and it becomes clear the London-based label (which recently celebrated its 20
th birthday) represented some of the best indie music of the 90's and (I can't believe we're actually calling them this) 'noughties'. From Placebo and Death Cab For Cutie to the Maccabees, Winnebago Deal, The Walkmen and The Computers; Fierce Panda hasn't so much found a niche as they have nurtured a quirky, unique temperament that doesn't always result in greatness, but almost always results in something interesting (Keane aside of course). The rough theme which binds this compilation album of the labels past 10 years is one of a “Slow building sadness,” but in truth there is little here that's outright miserable. “Gently sad” might be a more apt description perhaps? We have everything here from more established acts and newbies alike, so the early 'Walkmen' cut 'In The New Year' (which just serves to remind us all what a loss to the music world their retirement was) and The Raveonettes 'lo-fi Blondie' number 'Last Dance' share space with relative newcomers Milo Greene, art-punk Fall acolytes Art Brut, and something called 'J-Hop' from Department M, which kind of sounds like OMD having a nightmare (complete with sax solo). The artwork (a reference to the classic Tears For Fears album 'The Hurting') is a sparse indication of the contents within. There is nothing particularly grand or ambitious here, but then that's not what the label has ever been about. From the mariachi trumpets of The Spinto Band's 'They All Laughed' (why did this band fall off the radar? This is gold) to the new-new-wave drone of Hatcham Social's 'Sidewalk' and the final, crushing 7 minutes of 'Sovereign' by Ultrasound (imagine Spiritualised if they swapped the smack for anti-depressants), there is more than enough here for both old and new indie fans alike to explore and discover. In a musical landscape that's seen the guitar band relegated as second fiddle to 'DJ' with an iPod, there's something oddly comforting about the fact these guys are still around, doing what they do with the music they love. Chances are, you might love some of it too! It's a mixed bag for sure, but at least 70% of the material here is solid (to say the least), and considering the album is being given away free to anyone who purchases a record from the Fierce Panda website, it at least gives you another reason to delve further into the label's extensive, bewildering history.
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