Various Artists

Wakefield Box: Teenbeat Story [Box]

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Since its formation in 1985, Arlington, VA-based Teenbeat has remained one of the most influential and fascinating labels on the American indie rock landscape -- the brainchild of Mark Robinson, best known as the frontman for the brilliant Unrest, the imprint drew inspiration from British indies like Factory and 4AD to produce beautifully-packaged records notable as much for their strict devotion to D.I.Y. ethics as for their very un-punk eclecticism. Issued in celebration of Teenbeat's tenth anniversary, the four-disc, limited-edition Wakefield box set (so named in honor of the high school Robinson attended at the time of the label's inception) compiles key singles, album cuts, and rarities from throughout the imprint's existence, piecing together not only a history of Teenbeat itself, but also offering, by extension, a crash course in Amerindie aesthetics throughout the tumultuous 1985-1995 era. The quality of the material varies widely -- the sheer diversity of the label, though certainly one of its major strengths, also guarantees that probably no one other than Robinson himself could claim to admire everything Teenbeat ever released -- but the highs far outweigh the lows; the fourth disc, which assembles material from long out-of-print cassettes, is the jewel for long-time aficionados, but the second disc, created as an introduction for Japanese listeners, is in fact a perfect gateway for curious pop fans the world over. While also issued as four individual CDs, the box set, assuming you can track it down, is the way to go -- packaged in a stunning Bruce Licher-designed Independent Project Press sleeve, it also includes a Teenbeat sticker and a complete discography.