The Arf! Arf! (El Cheapo) 2-CD Sampler

Various Artists

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The Arf! Arf! (El Cheapo) 2-CD Sampler Review

by Richie Unterberger

The Arf! Arf! line focuses mostly on 1960s (and occasionally 1970s) garage bands that are obscure even by the standards of this over-anthologized genre. It also takes in weird amateurish cult records and experimental, idiosyncratic rock (sometimes in projects including label head Erik Lindgren himself). Released in commemoration of its 20th anniversary, this might at first glance look like the kind of label sampler-cum-advertisement that few would seriously consider buying. You'd be wrong, however, because in a refreshing exception to custom, none of these 50 tracks were previously available on CD, and many were previously unreleased in any form. This in turn isn't necessarily as exciting as it sounds, since a good deal of these unreleased items are demos or alternate takes/mixes of cuts by artists that don't exactly have devoted followings, even cult ones. Garage band aficionados will probably have heard of the Lost, the Litter, the Flat Earth Society, and the Lazy Smoke; indie rock collectors might know about Space Negros and Lindgren; and "incredibly strange music" followers will have probably at least heard about Lucia Pamela and Jack Mudarian (the latter of whom is actually represented by a radio story on his ability to sing snippets of old pop tunes for 45 minutes at a time). Otherwise you might feel a little lost. Yet as for the garage stuff, which takes up well over half the set, there are some good selections: the Lost's moody "Everybody Knows" (an alternate version), the Litter's classic "Action Woman" (with alternate vocal), Steve Ellis' & the Starfires' uncanny Byrds imitation "Pride of a Man," and Morgen's "Of Dreams," a quite good heavy psych tune with helium whispery female vocals and inventive fuzz and wah-wah flutters. Although the average merit of the garage cuts is just okay, there's so much variety, from frat rock and instrumentals to glam and power pop, that it actually ends up being a much more enjoyable listening experience than the ordinary Arf! Arf! single-artist or single-label compilation. It's not quite certain whether the typical fan of such sounds will enjoy the wacky ineptitude of Lucia Pamela, or the post-'70s tracks like the creepy synth pop of the Space Negros. These don't mesh comfortably with everything else, though they do complete a representative portrait of the Arf! Arf! catalog.

Track Listing - Disc 1

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time Stream
New Breed 02:28 Amazon
2 The Lost 02:19 Amazon
The Bourbons 02:23 Amazon
4 Rising Storm / The Rising Storm 04:41 Amazon
Rich Weinberg 03:16 Amazon
Four Commandments 03:15 Amazon
Dry Ice 03:51 Amazon
Lazy Smoke 02:38 Amazon
The Lost 00:50 Amazon
10 Flat Earth Society 03:22 Amazon
11 The Litter 02:33 Amazon
The Litter 02:40 Amazon
The Litter / Those Of Us 02:27 Amazon
14 Steve Ellis / Steve Ellis & The Starfires 02:20 Amazon
Dee Jay & The Runaways 02:24 Amazon
Chuck Barr & The Playboys 02:20 Amazon
Yankee Rebels 03:09 Amazon
Traditions 02:40 Amazon
Pat Farrell 02:11 Amazon
Flowers / The Flowerz 01:39 Amazon
6 Feet Under / Six Feet Under 04:10 Amazon
Frederic / The Fredric 04:58 Amazon
23 White Lightning 03:40 Amazon
24 Legends 02:48 Amazon
TNT 04:07 Amazon
26 Pandora 02:30 Amazon
The Moving Parts 02:42 Amazon
blue highlight denotes track pick