Various Artists

Squares Blot out the Sun

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Originally planned for release in 1984, the DB Records compilation Squares Blot Out the Sun didn't actually make it onto shelves until 1990. The delay makes it a rather schizophrenic compilation, since it covers material from as far back as 1978 ("Y.O.U. Mistake," a doomy, new wave-ish bedroom demo by Tom Gray of the Brains and Alfredo Villar of the Fans) and as recently as 1989 (the mournful banjo-and-melodica-based "Talked About It" by ex-Windbreakers co-leader Tim Lee). Although the proto-alt country later material sounds pretty good, with the Reivers' "Bidin' My Time" a particular standout, it's the rarities from the late '70s and early '80s that are particularly fascinating.

Although mostly remembered only as the scene that spawned the B-52's and R.E.M., Georgia had one of the most vibrant music communities of the post-punk era, and Squares Blot Out the Sun gathers rare songs from that period, showing the Athens and Atlanta scenes in all their multi-faceted glory. From the straight-up power pop of the Fans' "True," a classic 1979 single, to the irreverent, herky-jerky pair of covers by Jack Heard (featuring ex-Method Actor David Gamble, Atlanta scene stalwart Kevin Dunn and, of all people, British synth pop whiz Thomas Dolby, who shared a U.K. label with the Method Actors), DB Records covered all the bases.

It's the live material that's most illuminating, since Athens in particular was primarily known as a club town and the best Athens bands were those that could deliver on-stage. Oh OK's "Random," a bouncy tune not on either of their EPs, shows how far a band could go with just voice, bass, and drums. "Party Zone," the encore from Pylon's 1983 farewell show, captures that legendary band at their art-dance peak, with singer Vanessa Briscoe wordlessly shrieking as the three-piece band blends the Gang of Four and Dick Dale into a frenzied sound that was all their own. Although it's more for completists than anyone else, and the sound occasionally approaches bootleg quality, Squares Blot Out the Sun unearths some hidden treasures.

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