Various - The Sound of Young New York & Toronto
It smacks a little of shallow gimmickry, but opening a compilation of (supposedly) America and Canada's coolest new music with a rowdy cover of Britney Spears' "Toxic" is at least brave. When that cover is arguably the poorest song on a very fine disc, though, it seems foolish. Still, that's not to say that These Bones' interpretation Ms. Spears is at all bad, it just seems a little juvenile in comparison to much of the sheer class that follows it. In style however, it's perhaps what you'd expect from a compilation with the words 'Young' and 'New York' in its title; fast, punky, choppy, with a rough garage-rock edge but an unquestionably dancey (hate that word) beat.
The formula continues as the CD, presented as a DJ mix, runs into the harder sound of Death From Above 1979's "Romantic Nights", before an early high watermark is reached with Fever's "Ladyfingers", still guitar based but with a relentless synth riff that gives it a dance edge. Fast and furious, it sounds like a jam session between Franz Ferdinand and The Bravery, with none of the self-obsessed pretence of the latter, or the grating pseudo-intellectual humour of the former. Then there's the scream of Highway Stars' "Fucky Funky Music", sparse, with only shouted, primal vocals, electronic beats, almost grungy guitar and very occasional synth to power it. More of this enticing combination of dance and rock follows over the next few tracks, albeit in different forms, from Itchy Revolutions "Gangsters & Models", Panthers' awesomely (hate that word too) titled "Thank Me With Your Hands", "Party Crashers" from Radio 4, arguably the best known band on this disc, along with Death From Above 1979, and Alister Doomington's "Lovin the Fix". They're all dark, sleazy, cool and snarling; and everything you could want from a compilation of this nature.
Next up we get "Fourteen Again" from The Glass. Whilst the song itself is one of the CD's less inspiring moments, The Glass must nonetheless get special mention as the mixers of this fine compilation. The way it's presented, it not only sounds like the soundtrack to a very cool, very sexy party, it feels like that party too. The evocation of one wild night through song order and subtle mixing is quite masterful. This is most evident on the album's glorious climax, in which Ratatat's masterful, almost totally instrumental "Seventeen Years", probably the finest song present here begins the comedown, before Neurotic Drum Band's great "We're Gonna Rock New York" sounds, with a style more like the Miami Sound Machine than anything else, like a final last gasp attempt to keep the party spirit going. It is swept aside, though, by the yearning, epic, minor key masterpiece "Street Commander" from The Voices. 'When it's four o'clock in the morning, don't ask me where I've come from' it tells us, perfectly evoking the spirit of regret-tinged happy memories of the night that has just ended.
Three brilliant songs in succession, mixed with such grace and lightness of touch that they sound more like a song sequence on an album, not three disparate tracks on a compilation. The end of "The Sound of Young New York & Toronto" is more akin to the second half of the Beatles' "Abbey Road" or the songs that close Van Morrison's "Into The Music" than "Now 832!" or "Old Skool House Volume Nineteen". And it is, of course, all the better for it. This a fine exercise in compilation assembly; the songs are great indivudually but the mixing makes the CD so much more than the sum of its parts. Every home should have one.