Ever since 2000's The First Broadcast, with its hand-crafted orange, white, and blue cardboard cover, showed up in my Flyer mailbox after just a couple of weeks into the job, I've looked forward to Makeshift compilations, which have evolved into quasi-definitive snapshots of a certain segment of the city's Midtown-based indie-rock scene.
The latest installment, Makeshift 4, doesn't have as much musical variety as some past editions, which made room for hip-hop or spoken-word poets, instead investigating the four corners of the city's guitar-based underground: indie-rock, alt-country, punk, and garage-rock. Frequent Flyer contributor Andrew Earles does check in with a comedy bit, "Andrew Dice Clean," though it can't match his howling post-Bonnaroo prank call ("You're Harshing My Trip") from Makeshift 3.
But Makeshift 4 is -- by far -- the biggest compilation Makeshift has ever released, packing 46 songs and 147 minutes of music across two discs. ("We could have made it three discs," says J.D. Reager, who sequenced, mixed, and partially recorded Makeshift 4 at his Unclaimed Recordings studio, "but that would have been stupid.") It's a lot of music to absorb, but most of it falls into now familiar Makeshift-comp categories. Here's some help sorting it all out:
Makeshift regulars: The Coach & Four, whose bracing guitar-pop debut Unlimited Symmetry was one of Makeshift's finest moments, return with "Hearts and Arrows." Blair Combest's warm, gravelly voice is in fine form on "In Her Eyes." The Antique Curtains take spaghetti-western soundtrack music on a punk-rock spin with "Ryno's Bag of Tricks."
Scene stalwarts: Makeshift has long attracted older or more established local-scene stars to its comps, and Makeshift 4 is no different. Monsieur Jeffrey Evans' leering, Southern-fried reading of the garage-rock standard "Farmer John" was recorded expressly for Makeshift 4, as was Cory Branan's hushed, acoustic "Lily." Former Grifter and current Bloodthirsty Lover David Shouse's "Here in the Ocean" is an atmospheric art-rock number in line with his recent Bloodthirsty Lovers work. Alicja Trout, who has been a Makeshift standout since The First Broadcast's "Waste of Breath," offers an agitated blend of new wave and garage-rock on her band Black Sunday's "I Feel So Nervous" and checks in with bandmate Robbie Grant for an untitled closing number by their band Mouse Rocket.
Makeshift newbies and relative unknowns: With its spare new-wave propulsion and yelping vocals, Severe Severe's "The Southern Barrier" sounds like early Cure, and Hollow Girl's "Swallowing Flowers" could have been an ace outtake from the Breakfast Club soundtrack. Meanwhile, Rind Stars' "Help" evokes another strand of '80s alt-rock (American indie bands like R.E.M., the Replacements, and the Meat Puppets) with its hooky guitars, rocketing tempo, give-and-take vocals, and plainspoken lyrics.
Previously released: As in the past, plenty of bands use the Makeshift comp as a showcase for music on their own current albums. Noise Choir's instrumental "Muscular Pony" led off their 2005 debut Sings Out. The Glass' urgent "Power of the Current" is from their 2005 album Hibernation. And Glossary's "The Reckless" is a slice of low-key Southern-rock from the Murfreesboro-based band's current album For What I Don't Become.
Highlights: As on any collection, there are always standout tracks. My picks of the litter: Makeshift founder Brad Postlethwaite's dancey "Happy," an unlikely blend of "Beatlesque" and '80s techno-pop, with sadly funny lyrics for a guy still a few years shy of 30 ("I woke up coughing, getting fat/Losing hair and all of that"); Luke White's "Girl Arms (remix)," which puts a techno spin on a song from his band the Coach & Four; Walkie Talkie's swooning indie-pop "First Year"; and, perhaps most of all, Augustine's "Roll Commercial," which is lifted from their stellar late-2005 Makeshift debut Broadcast but which sounds even better in this context. Nearly six minutes of blistering guitar interplay, urgent tempos, and menacing lyrics, "Roll Commercial" sounds at home on Makeshift 4 but also boasts a power, command, and ambition that sets it completely apart. -- Chris Herrington
Makeshift will hold several release parties this week for Makeshift 4. See Local Beat, page 29, for full info.