Various Artists

Unsound, Vol. 1: Pop!

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The Unsound series was initiated, according to the liner notes, "to make great home-recorded music available to the general public." So what you have here are 24 home demos, from all over North America and in one case beyond, of '90s pop tunes that have no chance of actually being played on pop radio, and not much chance of even getting airplay on college radio. The recording quality is, at worst, just below the usual level of fidelity on most "proper" album releases, and often at about the same level of fidelity as you'd hear on most contemporary rock discs. Most artists get a song apiece, and some get two or three; none are well-known even in the indie scene, with the possible exception of Shane Faubert (formerly in the Cheepskates, and one of the executive producers of the compilation). It's usually pleasant, and not astounding, retro-style pop/rock. Guitars, harmonies, and bittersweet love songs are usually the main elements, but there's a fair bit of diversity, even if some specific influences -- John Lennon, Cheap Trick, Brian Wilson, the Byrds, the Monkees (a very obvious inspiration on Ray Carmen's "Save My Soul") -- are pretty easy to pinpoint. Some of the better tracks are Martin Dibbs' "I Don't Need to Know," with its catchy Merseybeat flavor, and the Breetles' "Restaurant Scene" with its nods to Brian Wilson and Michael Brown; and Pet the Pig!'s "Talk Show" gets a little beyond the usual lyrical parameters with its song about a weirdo girlfriend.

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