Various Artists

Last Beat Records, 2000

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Last Beat Records hails from Dallas, Texas, as do all the bands that show up on Last Beat 2000, a solid compilation of recent and recent-past cuts from label releases and label releases to be. Those Texas roots aren't really in strong evidence throughout the collection other than in the spare musical webs exquisitely spun by Pleasant Grove, which wind creeping country sentiment into transcendent slow-core grooves and the joyously bellicose boogie-rock of the swaggering Clowns for Progress. Other than those bands (each of which contributes a pair of songs), it would be next to impossible to place the music in the cragged wide-open spaces of the Lone Star state. With that said, it should be noted that although these songs mostly steer clear of southern-fried hard rock and bone-dry cowpoke tunes, the music is compelling, often spacy and forward-looking music that manages to rock aggressively while wading in electronic textures. From Vibrolux's wispy, hook-filled seduction to Astrogin's sleek and cutting-edge pop, the music has a tendency to conjure up urban and late-night scenes that pulse with a millennial vibe. A couple artists even step outside that parameter. Cramer's "Better Off Alone" comes across like a Pavement/Weezer collaboration sung by the B-52s' Fred Schneider, while Deborah Vial's "Kiss Me" percolates with computer gurgles and atmospheric guitar but is generally a Pat Benatar-cum-Beth Orton singer/songwriter ballad. And the only misstep is the hardcore thrash metal of GRYN. Luckily, the exceptional Captain Audio erases said faux pas with its two contributions. The band proves itself a futuristic juggernaut, and its lengthy artistic reach is apparent on just these two songs, part space rock, part neo-Band lope. And in general, Last Beat 2000 succeeds as a good sampler for the label while also showing strong proof that the state of Texas alternative pop is locked down.