Various Artists

Let's Go Outside!

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Named after the label of release, Virginia's Outside Records, Let's Go Outside! provides a nice enough peek into a variety of generally obscure acts from the States and elsewhere circa 2000. It's definite value for money with 21 different acts featured, though as with most such compilations it's a release with highs and lows rather than full consistency -- a couple of tracks suggest little more than gravelly VH1-style spins on "adult alternative." When it hits, though, it provides some well-worthy manic pop thrills. The styles provide an enjoyable range, from the pure garage revivalism of the Sums ("Spooky Sums" could easily be a 1966-era surf/psych jam) to frenetic bluegrass (Gypsy Moon's "Already in North Carolina") to modern noise pop and indie rock efforts. Sometimes it's all in the recording -- Some Rare Footage's "Stephen" starts everything with a blaring wash of noise that's pure early Jesus & Mary Chain meets Can's trance psych stomp, with low-key but not mumbled vocals topping it off (compared to, say, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, this is the real deal). At other points, it can be a single element that makes a song stand out -- the quiet, acoustic-led intensity of Clyde's "Crutch" really sparkles thanks to the wordless female vocals swooping in and out of the mix, while the lead-melody playing violin on Shytown's "Twilight" is both sweet and energetic. Among the engaging surprises: Grind's odd new wave-inspired "The Paine Twins," with its constant shifting of keys and percussion styles (but not rhythms), the Gang Wizard's suitably murky, Dead C-damaged take on "I Will Follow (Reprise)" -- U2 doubtless never had it so surprising, one figures -- and especially My Dear Ella's understated rocker "A Brother's Lament." Epic without sounding it, heartfelt in the gentlest of ways, it's a miniature classic on its own.