The Freakbeat Scene (1998) is another entry in Decca Records' lauded archival "Scene" series. Each respective title has proven to be as much a treat for the hardcore fan as for the curious neophyte. The focus of this 25-track anthology is the mid- to late-'60s mod, soul, rock, garage, and psychedelia-influenced British bands that created a distinctive synthesis of sounds that have become collectively referred to as freakbeat. However, as explained in the liner booklet blurb, that exact phrase wasn't turned until the subgenre resurfaced as retro-chic during the 1980s. The vast majority of these platters may not be familiar to all but the most academic of freakbeat enthusiasts, which is partially due to their relative unavailability for over two decades. In some cases, for example the Score's aggressive and attitude-laden cover of the Beatles' "Please Please Me," is practically all that exists. The same can be said of the edgy proto-punk reading of "(I'm Not Your) Stepping Stone" from the Flies, which deflates the Monkees' sugary farfisa organ with stinging electric guitar leads and a heavily pulsating backbeat. While Keith Shield's echoplex-soaked revision of Donovan's "Hey Gyp (Dig the Slowness)" lies closer to the Animals' frenzied reworking of the tune, it likewise boasts a rhythmic agitation notably absent from either of the higher profile takes. Among the better-known acts are the Small Faces, whose "Understanding" exemplifies the soulful nature of freakbeat, highlighted by Marriott's blistering fretwork and vocals. There is also an early original from future T. Rex figurehead, Marc Bolan. "The Third Degree" is an apt demonstration of Bolan's penchant for catchy and mod-ish melodies. Although that barely scratches the surface, it is safe to say that interested parties will not be disappointed in the Freakbeat Scene. Like-minded listeners should check out the Psychedelic Scene (1998), Rock 'n' Roll Scene (1998), and the pair of Mod Scene (1999) volumes as well.
AllMusic Review by Lindsay Planer