Various Artists

Their Sympathetic Majesties Request

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Their Sympathetic Majesties Request provides the uninitiated with an excellent overview of independent label Sympathy for the Record Industry. This two-disc collection, subtitled "A Decade of Obscurity and Obsolescence (1988-1998)," actually focuses on the first five years of that span, from 1988 to 1993. SFTRI founder and all-around eccentric Long Gone John has a wide range of musical tastes, though most of the music featured here could be included under the catchall description of garage rock. The set veers from the depraved punk of the Dwarves (weighing in with the none-too-subtle "Sit on My Face") to the cheeky, jazz-inflected skronk of Thee Headcoatees "Fish Pie," with notable detours into early tracks by the likes of the Supersuckers ("I'm Poor"), Rocket From the Crypt ("Boy Chucker"), and Hole ("Phonebill Song"). However, as is often the case with compilations that mine obscure veins, the most inspired moments here come from the lesser-known artists, including Monsieur Jeffrey Evans bashing out the rock classic "Shake, Rattle, and Roll," the Shitbirds with the jangle pop of "Baby What's New?," and the Gargoyles' open love letter to Lou Reed, the imaginatively titled "Lou." Other highlights include the clever power pop of the Pooh Sticks ("Soft Beds, Hard Battles"), the 1977 punk stylings of Thee Headcoats ("Hatred, Ridicule, and Contempt"), and the fragile orchestral pop of Spectrum (aka Sonic Boom of Spacemen 3 fame) ("True Love Will Find You in the End"). Due to the schizophrenic nature of Their Sympathetic Majesties Request, it's unlikely that every song will appeal to the average listener, but the scattershot approach also ensures that something here will appeal to any fan of left-of-the-dial music. The CD also features fascinating booklet art by Mark Ryden, a mainstay of the low-brow art movement. All things considered, Their Sympathetic Majesties Request adds up to a very entertaining collection, one that just might turn out to be an indie rock equivalent to '60s garage rock compilations such as Nuggets, Pebbles, and Back From the Grave.

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