Various Artists

Unsound

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After ten years and as many volumes to boot, Epitaph's Punk-O-Rama series has been unceremoniously retired to make way for their new budget compilation line, Unsound. 2006 marks the first volume of this line that's also sure to be long-running, and really, it's the exact same thing as its venerable predecessor. A logical next step for Epitaph, the label isn't rebuilding the foundation lain with Punk-O-Rama, but simply renaming it with a title that better encompasses their diversified family. After all, the label's roster is a far cry from the skatepunk-dominated lineup of the '90s. By the mid-2000s, Epitaph boasted releases from underground rap (Sage Francis, Danger Doom), indie pop/rock (Youth Group, the Robocop Kraus), hardcore (Converge, Some Girls), and pop-punk (the Matches, Motion City Soundtrack), while still remaining home to punk revival stalwarts like Bad Religion and Pennywise. As such, Unsound comes off like a minor buffet of varied album tracks and previously unreleased material to sample and fill one's iPod. The passionate grit of "New Eyes Open" is a preview of forthcoming material from the Draft (three-fourths ex-Hot Water Music), while Epitaph newcomers Escape the Fate, I Am Ghost, and Vanna serve up varying levels of forgettable screamo-tinged hardcore. Carrying the indie pop banner is Australia's Youth Group with a radio edit of their gently poignant "Forever Young" (and no, it's not a Rod Stewart cover). Along with Youth Group, Danger Doom and Sage Francis contribute some of the album's strongest tracks with the hypnotic "Benzie Box" and a fierce remix of "The Buzz Kill," respectively. Sugarcoated attitude on the Matches' "Little Maggots" is sure to incite anticipation for their sophomore label effort. Pennywise remains strong after all these years ("Knocked Down"), and the anthemic "The Gold Song" is some of the finest Bouncing Souls songs to date. However, with such a wide range of bands on Epitaph's roster, there's a distinct feeling that the overall compilation could be much stronger -- and longer. It almost seems selfish to ask as much with 17 songs and a ten-song music video DVD attached, but c'mon, 2005's Punk-O-Rama, Vol. 10 had 26 songs on the CD and a similar amount on the DVD. Epitaph is a much stronger label than what some of the presented tracks represent, and while it's understandable that they'd want to focus on up-and-coming talent, there's a noticeable lack of older, trustworthy bands to highlight the label's history. Though it's an adequate snapshot of Epitaph in 2006 for only eight dollars, Unsound is still just a little frustrating with the knowledge of what else could have been included.

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