So, between the Who's a Punk?
LP, the Destroy All Art
LP, and now this, that's no less than three
great compilations that have come through the store this month. That has to be some kind of record! Listening to all of these great comps has me thinking a bit about the nature of great compilations. I think the conventional wisdom is that great compilations simply document a great scene, but Frequency of the True Wave
is making me realize that there's more to it than that. A great compilation doesn't simply reflect a scene, it takes part in shaping and defining that scene. Certainly Who's a Punk?
is defining a canon of "fake punk" and Destroy All Art
is defining a canon of legit 90s bangers, but what's even more interesting is when a compilation like Frequency of the True Wave
seems to pull a scene out of thin air. This comp, which features 19 bands, was compiled by Megan from Street Eaters, and all of the bands feature women prominently in their lineups, most frequently on lead vocals but there are a few tracks where men sing lead. This isn't, however, merely piggybacking on an existing definition of "riot girl" or "girl punk" or anything like that; it's really defining a brand new scene with its own values. Several of these bands you might already know--Arctic Flowers, Nervosas, and (full disclosure: me and Seth's band) No Love might all be familiar to those who frequent Sorry State, but those bands' work is recontextualized in a way that makes me think about it differently. It seems to me like there's a particular take on femininity here... one that is powerful, progressive, and challenging, and cleverly manages to avoid stereotypes of women and women punks in particular without calling attention to the fact that it's doing so. It's a really difficult thing to explain and I'm probably doing a poor job articulating it, but basically all of these bands rock individually, and their individual work has been put together in a meaningful way here that makes you not only reconsider the parts but the whole as well. If that's not what a good compilation is supposed to do then I should probably just donate my first pressing of Flex Your Head
to someone who understands punk better than I do.
Oh, and by the way, I should mention that this is a really gorgeous package. The tapes are professionally dubbed and imprinted, and come with a really beautiful hand-printed j-card. It's a swanky piece!