Various Artists

Old Enough 2 Know Better: 15 Years of Merge Records

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Listening to Old Enough 2 Know Better: 15 Years of Merge Records, you are struck by one simple undisputable fact: Merge is a great record label. Their releases are varied, the bands are almost all excellent, and they aren't afraid to take chances. Their core sound is very much the Superchunk template of hooky songs delivered by impassioned pop punx, but they don't feel compelled to sign only bands that fit that mold. Not to mention the fact that they have put out records by some of the bands that have helped shape the sound of indie rock: Magnetic Fields, Ladybug Transistor, the Clientele, Lambchop, Pram, Neutral Milk Hotel, and Spoon. OK, so put me on the publicity payroll, but what about the compilation you came here to read about? It is a wonderful three-disc trawl through loads of great music with only a few duff tracks here and there. Arranged with no regard to chronology or continuity of sound, it lets you make your own connections (like the Rosebuds sound a lot like Butterglory or that guy in Portastatic sure sounds like the singer of Superchunk [and Bricks] -- thanks to R.T. Clontle's hilarious liner notes for that joke) and allows for constant moments of surprise. The first two discs are made up of tracks from previous Merge releases, and the third is all rare and hard-to-find tracks. This is the real find for Merge fanatics as there is much to salivate over here. The Clientele's cover of Jimmy Webb's "Where the Universe's Are" shows how they handle a song with a verse-chorus structure (smashingly!), the Essex Green's romp through the Sir Douglas Quintet's "Mendicino" is a blast, Spoon's romping cover of Yo La Tengo's "Decora" is fun, Spent's pounding "Corvette Summer" is a welcome reminder of an unjustly forgotten band, Camera Obscura's "San Francisco Song" shows why the label's future is in good hands, and Portastatic's "Some Small History" is a breathtaking reminder that Mac is still able to break hearts with the best of them. Old Enough 2 Know Better is simply wonderful from beginning to end, a must-have item for indie kids both old enough to remember Merge 001 and young enough to be Superchunk's grandkids. So if you can't make it to their big celebration in Chapel Hill, get hold of this set and celebrate the best label in America today.

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