Various Artists

Zang Tuum Tumb: The Organization of Pop: Music from the First Thirty Years of ZTT Records

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Calling the '80s and U.K. imprint ZTT (which stood for "Zang Tumb Tuum" and "Zang Tuum Tumb," depending on the day) "indie" doesn't touch upon how ambitious the label was, ambitious on a Frankie Goes to Hollywood or out-to-change-pop-music scale, and all dressed in expensive, cutting-edge clothing while they unleashed their garish blows against the empire. Acting as the label's co-CEOs, Paul Morley filled the liner notes with flowery prose that even the classical music set would have called snooty, while uber-producer and clever Buggle Trevor Horn produced -- some would say, over-produced -- glorious releases that were perfect for showing off stereos and marveling at studio wizardry. This was not post-punk music in the textbook sense but in the hangover sense, as ZTT didn't care for things being so smelly or messy, but with forgotten, esoteric, and gimmicky acts like Nasty Rox Inc., Das Psycho Rangers, and Anne Pigalle (who's forgotten even on this set) on the roster, any "greatest-hits" compilation of the label ends up just a Frankie, Art of Noise, 808 State, the Frames, and maybe Propaganda mega-set. Razor & Tie's great The Organization of Pop allows the esoterica to flow through, bookending itself with the only thing Grace Jones ever recorded for the label (her album for the often conceptual ZTT was ten versions of the same song) and then some neo-classical music from house composer Andrew Poppy. In between there's Tom Jones swinging his lead on the Horn-produced blow-out "If I Only Knew," MC Tunes battling 808 State on the chirpy "Dance Yourself to Death," and Nasty Rox Inc. combining the sample-heavy music of Art of Noise with the Washington, D.C.-based genre of go-go music on an only-in-the-'80s number dubbed "Escape from New York." There are Glen Hansard and the Frames floating light-rock style, Shane MacGowan taking a break from the Pogues, and Claudia Brucken's post-Propaganda project ACT, but the reason newcomers will want the set are here, too, with all the proper Frankie ("Relax," "Two Tribes"), 808 State ("Pacific," "Cubik"), and Art of Noise ("Moments in Love," "Beat Box") selections landing on the track list and in their proper remixes. Buyers of the physical version get a great essay from Michaelangelo Matos, which captures the thrill of being a ZTT fan as it happened. It's a fine addition to this already loving and valuable release.

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