Various Artists – 30th Century Records Volume 1 review

30th Century Vol_1 - custom, banner, background grey (1440x810)Long-time fans of musician and producer, Danger Mouse, will know that his musical palette is as wide as his hair is big. 30th Century Records is a brand-new imprint label set up by the Mouse to look for “things that I like or that I connect with in some way that maybe other people are not”. This inaugural release features 11 unknown, or barely known, artists, and is a stimulating appetiser to what 30th Century may bring us in the months and years to come.

30th Century final cover-art custom, 500Though each of the songs are by different musicians, there are common threads between them lyrically. The most poignant of which is a fascination with what others want from you or what’s expected of you by ‘civilised society’. Autolux’s ‘Change My Head’ and Paper Morning’s ‘Mad as a Hat’ are especially strong in that regard, reflecting a kind of melancholy determination to go your own way, maintain your position (“you’re so afraid of being found out”), and, ultimately, survive in the face of unhappy circumstances.

Much of the mood is melancholic, but it isn’t dour, and the songs bear as much substance as they do musical style. The Arcs’s ‘Fools Gold’ struts determinedly, the words of famed singer of The Black Keys, Dan Auerbach, commanding your attention. The influence of the Beach Boys and the Beatles is all over the dreamy ‘Please Do Not Explain’ by Big Search and Tame Impala-like ‘Enigma Do Dente Falso’ by Bike. Both are winning rock numbers.

The melodic dream pop and splashes of surf and psych on offer here compliment what each of singers has to say. It’s all very much in keeping with the alt-rock wheelhouse Danger Mouse himself has led, or contributed to (Broken Bell, Electric Guest, Portugal. The Man). Only one of the songs features production by the Mouse – Sam Cohen’s mercurial ‘Lose Your Illusion’ – and yet, the entire compilation feels carefully authored. It’s rare to find a compilation by various artists that feels like its songs share a thematic identity, but these do.

More than 15 years into his career and we still know very little about the man behind the cartoon moniker; in a strange way, his illusiveness has become part of his image. But his work ethic is never anything less than outstanding. Danger Mouse’s inaugural 30th Century Records compilation shows that, as label boss and a curator of music, he continues to be a fine tastemaker.

30th Century Records Volume 1 is out now on 30th Century / Columbia Records.

Have you listened to this album? If so, what did you think of it? Tweet me @dk33per.

Image: 30th Century/Columbia Records