Wednesday, June 23, 1999

Optimistic Depression

Posted By on Wed, Jun 23, 1999 at 12:00 AM

After conversations with Mark Kozelek of Red House Painters about releasing some of the rare or demo versions of their songs, Badman Recording Co.’s Dylan Magierek came up with an even better idea. What about releasing 12 new, rare and favorite tracks from Red House Painters, Low, Hayden, Misc and Idaho, and then donating some of the sale to the Shanti Project of San Francisco?!

The Shanti Project is dedicated to enhancing the quality of life of people living with HIV disease and AIDS, and the artists were more than happy to contribute to what is an incredibly good collection of rare and unreleased material. The tempo and the lyrics of the music befits the cause: quietly hopeful and carefully optimistic. Lest we forget, life is what you make it and who cares if the color of grass is greener elsewhere? Sometimes it’s Kentucky blue. Ah yes, an element of depression teases the listener, but only if you choose to interpret reflection as a depressing activity. And if you do, skip through the aching drama of "Choking" and "Wasting My Days Away," two new Hayden songs written while on tour especially for this project. Misc’s "Compression" would be more your speed — a regulated, driving instrumental with a whining "air raid" keyboard throughout.

As for Low, the band doesn’t offer anything new. The Red House Painters do an interesting interpretation of Neil Young’s "Midnight on the Bay," but I’m not convinced. It’s their soft and sweet "Follow You, Follow Me" that reminds you why you loved them in the first place. Surprisingly, the one song that captures the true spirit of this collection is the very summery, uplifting, wind-in-your-hair "The Sun is All There Is," a just-for-this-compilation original by Idaho, singing "with a smile in your eyes, the world is crumbling around you; There’s a lot on your mind, is it worth all this thinking about?" You’ll have to be the judge of that, and of these soul-warming songs by some of the best indie bands of the ’90s.

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