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Casual Victim Pile: Austin 2010

Released on Matador Records, 1/27/10

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars.

I assumed the new compilation put out by Matador Records’ Gerard Cosloy, Casual Victim Pile — an anagram for “Live Music Capital” and reference to Cosloy’s current city of residence, Austin, Texas — would be a nineteen-song journey through the humid streets and dusty skies of a city I only visit once a year, along with about 125,000 others for SXSW.

I was expecting instrumental post-rock, Americana-tinged folk, twanged-out guitar pop with a little of the dreaded alt-country thrown in for good measure. What I discovered, besides the fact that my assumptions of this compilation were embarrassingly and stereotypically wrong, is that I know a considerable amount more about the bands going into Austin than I do about the bands coming out of it.

I suppose it was a little off-putting at first to be met head-on with nineteen three-minute garage and punk songs, all coated in a fine layer of lo-fi grit and gall. The first few listens had all the tracks running together into one long, fuzzed-out plateau of sound, becoming very much background.

It took a few more listens before I had the patience to pick out the subtle nuances of each song, the delicate and elusive traits of each group. At first all I could hear were the similarities: The Young’s “Blister” and its obvious referencing to late-70s Clash, Flesh Lights’ Joey Ramone-style vocals on “Crush On You,” Lost Controls’ Devo-meets-The Dead Kennedys union with “Entirely Wired For Sound,” and,most obviously, The Teeners absolute and shameless piracy of virtually every element of standard Minor Threat in “Nazis On Film.” Painful as it is to see the classics of my youth torn to pieces and forcibly regurgitated by strangers, such is the tradition and institution of western composition and arrangement.

There is progression though. Moving through the Sonic Youth of the eighties (Kingdom of Suicide Lovers’ “Hoboken Snow”), into the Pavement and Dinosaur Jr. of the nineties and through the garage revival of the present day (Tre Orsi’s “The Engineer” and The Golden Boys’ “Older Than You”), Casual Victim Pile carries the weight of a musical revue with the vision of a man obviously enamored with the music scene in which he exists.

A regional compilation is a labor of love, and an expression of admiration to those truly valued. Gerard Cosloy isn’t doing anyone any favors. This release is not about moving units or chart positions. It is one man’s ode to a virtually unknown kingdom and the listeners chance to view the city with an insiders perspective and the purest intentions.

Casual Victim Pile is a varied compilation of spirited musicians within a wide spectrum of style and one that will no doubt garner some much-appreciated attention for the bands that exist in one of the most saturated live-music destinations in the nation.