Various Artists

Rough Trade Shops: 25 Years

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Rough Trade's story began in 1976 with a shop in Notting Hill, branching out within a couple years to become a label and a distributor. Beginning with Pere Ubu and concluding with Tindersticks, Rough Trade Shops: 25 Years chronologically distills the history of the pioneering independent outlet into four discs and 56 tracks, concentrating on old and new favorites that have graced the shop's new release racks. Just about every style associated with U.K.-based independent and underground music between 1975 and 2000 is accounted for. The first half concentrates on the punk and post-punk staples of the Buzzcocks ("Boredom"), the Birthday Party ("Mr. Clarinet"), the Cocteau Twins ("Sugar Hiccup"), and the Smiths ("Hand in Glove"), throwing in the occasional pleasant surprise like the short-lived Native Hipsters ("Look There Goes Concord Again") and diversions into reggae (Lee "Scratch" Perry, the Congos). The second half does a lot more hopping around stylistically. Spacemen 3 ("Revolution"), the Pixies ("Bone Machine"), the Chills ("Pink Frost"), and Clinic ("Monkey on Your Back") represent the guitar-based efforts, while Gescom ("Sciew Spoc"), Boards of Canada ("Everything You Do Is a Balloon"), and Plastikman ("Plastique") hit upon more electronic and experimental terrain. Since this compilation includes acts distributed and sold by the like-named shop, label, and distributor, there are major gaps with the Rough Trade bands proper -- no Galaxie 500, Scrawl, AR Kane, or This Heat. Since the label itself released nearly 300 singles, no package short of complete would avoid such a pitfall. But quite successfully, 25 Years provides a fantastic skip through Rough Trade's existence. Many great artists have Rough Trade to thank for bin space, recording costs, and retail distribution. Here's hoping for 25 more years -- and here's hoping that they're less turbulent financially.

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