Various Artists

Dreams Are Free (With Purchase)

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A curious collection of songs by an eclectic mix of all but unknown indie bands (when Jad Fair is the best-known artist, new and exciting levels of obscurity are clearly being reached), Dreams Are Free (With Purchase) is an often fascinating, sometimes maddening depiction of the state of the indie experimental scene circa 1998. Some tracks, like the untitled noise blat by Attitude and Couture that opens the disc, try far too hard. Others, like Grace Braun's voice-and-drums cover of Dale Hawkins' rockabilly hit "Worried About You Baby," just aren't terribly interesting ideas. After that, though, things pick up immensely. New Zealand's the Magick Heads contribute a very sweet and catchy slice of kiwi pop, and Uncle Wiggly (covering the Fall), Fly Ashtray, Sarge, God Is My Co-Pilot (covering the Wedding Present offshoot the Ukrainians), and Kleenex Girl Wonder offer some other terrific indie songs of various stripes. On the more esoteric tip, Spaceheads' blend of trumpet, electronics, and jazzy drums is quite appealing, and Dymaxion and the Shock Exchange do the bleep-honk-whir thing in a more interesting fashion than many artists can manage. Although the disc is frustratingly uneven, the high point on this album are terrific.

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