Various Artists

Underground Screams

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Underground Screams Review

by Rick Anderson

What's great about the Asian Man label is not just the fact that it has in its stable some of the finest ska, punk, and indie rock bands in America, but also the fact that label head Mike Park (formerly of Skankin' Pickle, the Bruce Lee Band, and the Chinkees) is a genuinely good guy who looks out for his people and tries to do right by the scene and its scattered denizens. Hence this outstanding compilation of tracks by no fewer than 28 unsigned bands from around the country. Park slogged through over 600 demos to cull the best for this compilation, and he did not labor in vain: Almost every track is a solid winner. As one might expect, the music is all over the place. There's straight-up hardcore from Chicago's Laydig, punky pop from the Critics, lo-fi ska from one-man band Warren Li Young, smoky and dubwise reggae from Pama International, and, best of all, a long-form masterpiece of acoustic world-ska-punk fusion by the Bandits of the Acoustic Revolution, whose "Here's to Life" offers a climactic midpoint to the album. This is one of those very rare collections that just makes you feel happy about life, while at the same time frustrated that so many great bands are still unsigned by established labels. Maybe Asian Man will find a place in its stable for a few of them -- beginning with the Bandits of the Acoustic Revolution.

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