I love a good compilation album. Always have done. The curator of Brits & Pieces II, indie music enthusiast Marc Rossiter says he took his inspiration for the project from the Shine series of albums from the Nineties. I can go further back. Somewhere in my tape collection you will find the cassettes of NME C86 and Indie Top 20 Volume 1 (minus inlay card). I like compilation albums for a couple of reasons. Firstly, they can introduce you to some really interesting artists you may never otherwise have come across. Without Indie Top 20 Volume 1 I may have missed the delights of Please Don’t Sandblast My House by 1000 Violins or Loan Shark by Guana Batz. Secondly, they irk completists no-end – ‘You haven’t got Indie Top 10 Volume One? I think you’ll find there’s a version of Transmisson on there’.
Marc’s intentions with Brits & Pieces (the title come from his Twitter handle) are much more noble than attempting to annoy a few Joy Division fans. Its purpose is to showcase the best of the UK’s up-and-coming independent artists. As his press release explains – ‘At a time when independent artists are unable to play live (and streaming revenues are minimal), this album is intentionally being sold as a physical CD to increase the chances of chart success – and therefore provide these artists with valuable exposure’. All the profits from sales of the CD will be shared between the featured artists. It’s an altruistic venture on Marc’s part.
Volume one of Brits & Pieces was released around Christmas 2020 and despite the crowded festive market, managed to reach 54 in the Official Compilation Charts. Expectations for Volume two are even higher.
There are eighteen tracks on the CD, so you can’t say you don’t get your monies worth in terms of quantity. Thankfully, you get your monies worth in terms of quality too. There is representation from all corners of the UK – from Greenock in the north (Black Dove) to Margate in the south (the wonderfully named Squangey Bobbins), and every track, regardless of its derivation, deserves your full attention.
Within the relatively narrow scope of the genre, the album still manages to be quite eclectic. Unusually for a review, I don’t want to give too much away about the tracks on Brits & Pieces II. Songs like these should be discovered. My notes on the tracks read like a wine tasters notes on vintage indie produce – ‘a hint of The Kooks’; ‘echoes of The Coral’; ‘a touch of Arctic Monkeys’; ‘the heady aroma of The Libertines’. Alright, I made-up that last one to stretch out the metaphor, but you get the point. There is something on here to titivate everyone’s musical taste-buds.
There are a few bands on the album who I was already aware of – The Outcharms – (Who’s Making You) Smile?, The Underclass from Stoke with The One, The Rosadocs – Say Something, and local band (to me anyway) The Sonder with their melodic Rollin’ The Dice. However, I do have to admit most of the artists on Brits & Pieces II were new to me.
In a field that’s dominated with kagoule-wearing, guitar-wielding, male foursomes, the album has a half-decent stab at some female representation, certainly better than the effort made by most of our main festival planners this year. Polaroid by Welsh artist Megan Wyn is a study on reminiscence, with a vocal style that puts you immediately in mind of Stevie Nicks. There is a track from Revivalry (‘The Future of Cleethorps Rock!’) – Shame on You that the term ‘precocious talent’ was coined for. There are also excellent tracks from Staarks – Another Lover, and Tiger Mimic – It Was Still Dark.
I’m trying hard not to single out any tracks as stand outs, as the whole album is tremendous. But worth a mention are A Little Bit Of Love (Goes a Long Long Way) by Ricky Clark, who sounds like a one man Talking Heads, and Happy Place from Scottish singer-songwriter Ryan Phillips who does not have a hope in hell of avoiding comparison with compatriot Gerry Cinnamon. I also have a soft spot for Get Away by Sunderland band The Voyd, a rollicking track that if you are a fan of bands like The K’s, then you’re going to love.
In the interest of thoroughness, and to placate the completists, there are also exciting tracks from: The Bagatelles – Romantic Resignation; Indie Street Club – Keep Up With The News; Northern Revelation – History; EJ Mann– Bloodrush (a track that reminds me a touch of Hard-Fi): and Dead and Buried by Michael Vickers.
The CD was mastered by Nick Brine, known for his work on (What’s The Story) Morning Glory? and Be Here Now. A mention is needed too for the artwork supplied Jonsey, whose distinctive designs for the two album sleeves – in red and blue – bring to mind at some subliminal level the two Best of The Beatles albums.
So do Marc a favour, do the bands a favour, but most of all do yourself a favour and get your hands on a copy of Brits & Pieces II while you can (people are already scouring Discogs for Volume 1!). Be a part of something. Who knows, in 20 years time you could be standing in a pub by your local arena waiting to go and see Revivalry and saying to someone – ‘What do you mean you haven’t got Brits & Pieces II? I think you’ll find it’s got the definitive version of Shame on You‘.
The Brits & Pieces II CD is out on 7th May 2021 but is available to pre-order now – pre-order now from Rough Trade.