Compilation Champs
[SXSW 06 : nice day for a party, isn't it?]

Welcome to the sixth edition of the Compilation Champs South by Southwest CD.

It was great to be with you this year in Austin. Some of you are old friends by now, and some I've just met. But I hope that you enjoy at least some of these songs, all of which have meant something to me in the past year. Canadian content is marked with a maple leaf. Feel free to get in touch with your comments (jamesATconsolationchampsDOTcom).

Teenage Head - Disgusteen (1980, from Frantic City)

Teenage Head were one of my favourite bands as a teenager growing up in Toronto. They were from Hamilton, a blue-collar steel town about 45 minutes away, and they played a gritty blend of punk and rockabilly. This song features singer Frankie Venom spouting lines from The Exorcist in a silly demon voice. What's not to love?

Spoon - If You Say So (1996, from All The Negatives Have Been Destroyed)

Early Spoon. Now that they've achieved a measure of the fame they deserve, it's fun to look back on what kind of music they were playing ten years ago. Though singer/guitarist Britt Daniel has often disparaged some of his band's early music, it was this stuff that got me into the band in the first place. P.S. I love the handclaps.

Gang of Four - Damaged Goods (1979, from Entertainment!)

I've gotten into Gang of Four in a huge way this year. With all the post-punk revivalists on the scene (Franz Ferdinand, The Killers, The Futureheads, etc. etc. etc.), it's nice to go back to the source once in a while.

Gang of Four - At Home He's a Tourist (2005, from Return The Gift)

Hey, you can't blame the guys from wanting to profit from the resurgence of their type of music. Return The Gift is a rerecording of many of their early songs by a reunited band. It's uncanny how good they sound. The advances in recording technology have only helped. I love this song's jagged-edge guitars. Turn it way way up!!

Tenpole Tudor - Throwing My Baby Out with the Bathwater (1981, from Swords of a Thousand Men)

I discovered these guys when I saw the name of singer "Eddie Tudorpole" on the soundtrack album for the Sex Pistols film "The Great Rock 'N Roll Swindle," where he sang a great version of Bill Haley's "Rock Around The Clock". I've always liked rockabilly and this also has the goofiest lyrics and singing. It's like a pub singalong.

Teenage Head - Picture My Face/Top Down (1979, from Teenage Head)

More from Hamilton's finest. It's amazing to me how fresh this stuff still sounds today, despite the absolutely crappy production. It's certainly aged better than I have!

Buzzcocks - Time's Up (1977, from Time's Up)

Who loves the Buzzcocks? Me! Turn this up and jump around like a spaz.

Metric - Monster Hospital (2005, from Live It Out)

Though Canada has been on the metric system since the 1970s, I only recently discovered this awesome Canadian band. Sexy singer, New Wave style and lots of rock attitude. Give these guys 2.54 centimetres, and they'll take 1.6 kilometres!

The Futureheads - Meantime (2005, from The Futureheads)

And now one from the new boys. I saw these guys live last year and they were just awesome. They've toured relentlessly and seem to really enjoy performing. Plus, they're sort of geeky and from the northern English town of Sunderland, whose soccer team is bottom of the Premier League right now. I've always loved underdogs. And I like the cheeky lyrics, too.

The Fall - Frightened (1978, from Live At The Witch Trials)

The Fall have always fascinated me. One of the most long-lived of the bands that came out around the punk explosion, they're not really punk at all, despite Mark E. Smith's sneering voice. More like art punk, I guess.

The Modern Lovers - She Cracked (1973, from The Modern Lovers)

1973? Does this sound like it's from 1973? I don't think so. Jonathan Richman is known now mostly for doing the dorky songs in "There's Something About Mary" but more than thirty years ago, he was a proto-punk. And Jerry Harrison (later of Talking Heads) was in the band, too. Check out his big hair on the album cover!

Stars - Reunion (2005, from Set Yourself On Fire)

This album was a revelation. As if I needed any more evidence that Montreal was a teeming hive of awesome music these days. I love that it's ok to make pop music that's overflowing with melody and sincerity again.

Okkervil River - The Latest Toughs (2005, from Black Sheep Boy)

Another revelation. Literate and yet grounded in a kind of folk authenticity. I love the smart way the lyrics leave room for me: "Just pause and add your own intention, right here…"

Razorlight - Stumble & Fall (2004, from Up All Night)

My friend Ian bought me this CD before I'd even heard of the band. What I love about this song is the way you can hear the spaces between all the instruments. Does that sound weird? Another neat thing is that they use this song sometimes on one of the soccer highlight shows I watch.

Rheostatics - King Of The Past (1992, from Whale Music)

Each year, the band plays a series of shows at the legendary Horseshoe Tavern in Toronto, and the show I saw this past December was "Whale Music Night". They played the entire album in sequence, and with a generous encore, the show stretched to almost two and a half hours, but I was never less than transfixed by this transcendent music. Each year, I try to include a Rheostatics song on this compilation, hoping that some of you will discover them, and when I heard "King of the Past" this year, I turned to my friend Brent and said, "I've found this year's song." Some of Martin Tielli's guitar work on this song sends chills up my spine.

Matisyahu - Heights (2005, from Live At Stubb's)

An amazing discovery. Though he sounds like a novelty act ("Hasidic Jew plays reggae!"), he's nothing short of breathtakingly authentic. Not bad rapping chops, either. As an added bonus, there's an Austin connection, since this was recorded at Stubb's, one of our SXSW standbys.

Delroy Wilson - Rain From The Skies (1969, from Good All Over)

What a beautiful voice. I'm so glad I discovered Delroy Wilson, though I can't remember how.

Sufjan Stevens - John Wayne Gacy Jr. (2005, from Illinois)

One of my two favourite songs about serial killers. The other is "Ted…Just Admit It" by Jane's Addiction. The thing I like about both songs is their refusal to demonize these men. The truth is that any of us are capable of horrible things. It's a very thin line sometimes. These guys are not monsters, they're broken human beings, just like us.

Radiohead - Sail To The Moon (2003, from Hail To The Thief)

Somehow I think this album was overlooked. Perhaps we all got tired of Radiohead's brilliance. That's a shame. I've been rediscovering Hail to the Thief this year.

Sigur Rós - Hoppípolla (2005, from Takk…)

I saw Sigur Rós live this past year, and the only thing I could day afterward was that it was a tiny bit like seeing God. It's certainly music that makes you feel more connected to the world behind the world.

Yo La Tengo - Take Care (2003, from Summer Sun)

A benediction. Thanks for listening, friends, and God bless. Thanks for sharing the week with me and enriching my life. I hope you took away more than you brought and I hope we'll meet again soon. Until then, Take Care.

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