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Various Artists – Alternative Press’ Press > Play Volume 1: Back to School
Alternative Press' Press > Play Volume 1: Back to School - Photo Finish Records
I guess it’s time to come to terms with it: the years of great punk compilations are at an end. Gone are the days of the Punk-O-Rama series as Epitaph has put that series to rest. Gone are the random Fatcompilations like Short Music For Short People and Uncontrollable Fatulence; although, hopefully they’ll spit out a few more CDs like Protect in the coming years. The Warped Tour compilations have lost their charmed for me, not because they’ve changed drastically but because I no longer look towards those release to introduce me to new bands. Even the Hopelessly Devoted To You series has started to see a downhill trend despite Volume 6 being impressive thanks to it’s inclusion of older material. The compilations that carried us from the mid nineties to the turn of the century have now gone the way of the do-do bird and have been forced to make way for a new generation of compilations. Alternative Press is trying to fill that void left with their new series: Press > Play; unfortunately the first edition of the series fails to hold a torch up to it’s forefathers.
Now, I will give Press > Play Volume 1 props for one thing, and that’s the amount of rare and exclusive tracks the album has. Fourteen out of the seventeen tracks are either rare, exclusive, live or remixes, so fans of the bands will find some great cuts in here. Plus, unlike many live recordings thrown onto compilations, the selected live songs from Head Automatica, Cute Is What We Aim For and Panic! At The Disco all sound really good, with Cute‘s and Head‘s songs being some of the highlights of the album.
Sadly though, the compilation falls victim to the current trend of popular underground music. The compilation features too many over produced emo cuts like Chiodos‘ opening track which instantly put me off from the CD (in fact, I think I skipped over it the very first time I played the CD, I just couldn’t find the strength to sit through it all). Envy On The Coast, Bayside, As Tall As Lions and Hit The Lights all supply songs that are bland and passable; and Gym Class Heroes‘ Shell Shock seems out of place while The Dillinger Escape Plan‘s inclusion on the compilation is mind boggling.
That’s not saying all seventeen songs are worthless because Alternative Press have grabbed a few gems, most notably that of Say Anything‘s Walk Through Hell. Ignoring the fact that the song is close to five years old, it’s still a rare song and one of the band’s better releases. Paramore‘s take on Foo Fighters‘ My Hero is interesting but I can’t help but feel that it would sound better without it being a remix. As forThe Used‘s previously unreleased Pain? Well, my feeligs are still torn down the middle concerning that as I can’t determine whether I like it or not.
So while not an absolutely terrible compilation, the album still seems rather bland for my tastes. A few good songs and one great song are not enough to keep the rest of the album afloat; as it is, it sinks more into a sea of mediocrity and I can’t help but hope that if the Press > Play series does becomes a landmark compilation set that they’re able to punch it up a bit their next releases.