VARIOUS 9 O’Clock In The Morning (Blue Rose)

Blue Rose is a small but interesting London-based label, and this six track sampler arrived free through the post to those of us on their mailing list, along with an impassioned and erudite plea to buy Tim Keegan & The Homer Lounge’s debut EP, which was ultimately wasted on me ‘cos I don’t buy singles. Shame, really, because the Homer Lounge track featured here, an alternative version of "Save Me From Happiness", is rather stunning, a little like The Beautiful South or The Divine Comedy without the smugness. Concerning the singer’s distress that the jolly state of mind brought about by falling in love might compromise his creative abilities, it sounds amazingly polished and professional, totally complete. I expect great things of this band.

Neutral Milk Hotel contribute "Oh Comely", a track from their album "In The Aeroplane Over The Sea", all battered acoustic guitar and hollering vocals to me it sounds like Tyrannosaurus Rex in very thick arran sweaters trying to dodge the flying scrumpy glasses in a folk club riot. (It’s a personal interpretation, I’ll freely admit!) Ventilator’s demo of "Motorcycle Rider" is no better, unfortunately: the music comes from a late night improv session, the words are inspired by a man "found lying on the road mangled and thrown 35 feet from his motor-bike", it sounds like goths trying to play jazz fusion to me.

Things improve when The Olivia Tremor Control arrive, with a 26-minute prog-fest in many parts called "Green Typewriter Suite", extracted from their critically lauded album "Music From The Unrealised Film Script: Dusk At Cubist Castle". Claiming to be influenced by Guided By Voices (which instantly lifts them to the acme of hip in my book), I can hear elements of a "Smile"-era Brian Wilson with a longgggg attention span as well. Don’t know if I like it yet, but it’s certainly interesting.

The disc’s second highlight has to be "Main Street Electrical Parade", an unassuming ditty from an unassuming Australian with Welsh roots, this is a gentle, country-folk-styled ballad that’s located somewhere in the broad gulf that separates Radiohead and Gram Parsons: there are moments here, when his voice chimes against the acoustic guitar backing, that I cannot get out of my head. I have ordered the parent album, "Telegraph", and will keep you posted as to its excellence or otherwise.

Finally meet Jimm And The Boxes, an American band who offset their vocalist’s tendency for comedy voices with strangely strange choruses that go "Maybe the underwear I’m wearing are a dead man’s/I shop too much at thrift stores".

I’ve been playing this CD a great deal recently, not only for the two standout tracks detailed above, but also for the way the whole thing flows so seamlessly for 45 minutes or so. There’s a real atmosphere of creamy quality and meticulous attention to detail here, tempered by a sense of rampant experimentation, that makes it in a tangential way a kind of 90s version of the Zombies album reviewed elsewhere. Keep tabs on Blue Rose: they appear to be a label whose roster merits your time and attention.