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And Now For Something Completely Crunchy: 25 Years of Crunchy Frog Richard Foster , October 9th, 2019 06:12

A degree of silliness abounds in this quarter century comp from Copenhagen’s Crunchy Frog label, but above and beyond that there remains something refreshing and inspiring, finds Richard Foster

What does an independent record label do when (in pop music terms at least) it becomes dignified and old? Rather than releasing a self-laudatory retrospective, Copenhagen’s Crunchy Frog label have done something completely different and released an old-fashioned record full of new sounds and fresh mischief.

A sense of fun is embedded into this record. For one, there is a game of aural tag for the listener to compute, where the last chord used in each song is passed on to start the next. Maybe this is what makes this release such an easy listen, regardless of each song’s style or approach. The fact that old long-defunct bands have found the energy and spirit to reform or collaborate in this project is also something of note. It certainly does say something about Crunchy Frog's trickster spirit. And it’s lovely to hear fresh material from a batch of mental party heads such as Iceland’s Apparat Organ Quartet; whose clunky but charming track ‘Alfa Party’, is a suitably louche way for the record to finish.

And Now For Something... is by no means retrospective, however. Though at times I did ponder whether writing this review was making me nostalgic for the better bits of the 1990s. Band names like The Tremolo Beer Gut (featuring Zombierella) do hint at those heady carefree times and instantly reminds me of strange and seamy releases on “funky” labels like Cripple Dick Hotwax records. Everything starts like it’s 1996, too, with the bruising shiny pop-punk of ‘I AM JACK RABBIT’ from Beta Satan, the glutinous synth squeal doing battle with some demented vocals. Further hints are found in fabulously gonzoid tracks like I Am Bones’s ‘Restorer’, which presents itself like a toothsome slice of grunge rock served with sauce but no salad. Or Powersolo’s track, ‘That Pop Song’, which is another evocative echo of that slack-trousered time, a simple bouncy track that nods to Dando et al.

Weirdness - both real and invoked - abounds as we delve further in. Sista Bossen’s ‘Malmø’ is a funny Janus-faced freak out that alternates between soliloquies and screaming. Bildt’s ‘Signaler’ is another weird/straight track; a Danish take on Yacht Rock that walks on the right side of uncool. There is something intriguing about listening to Danish sung in a pop song, it doesn’t feel like it quite fits the classic pop idiom, it sounds that wee bit uncomfortable, as if Bildt’s trying to cram lots more into the allotted space. Elsewhere we are propelled into phasertime with Snake and Jet’s Amazing Bullit Band, which could be a nod to the carefree spirit that drove Savage Rose, Alrune Rod and The Young Flowers.

What also strikes the listener is the sheer restlessness of And Now For Something... It has an omnivorous spirit, gobbling up and spitting out styles and references like drunks at a finger buffet. We can point to classic Animals-style soul revue with D/Troit’s ‘What’s A Man Gotta Do?’. In total contrast, Hands of Light’s splendid ‘Rehab in Heaven’ pledges allegiance with the cool modern wyrd pop of Yuko Yuko or Mart Avi, whereas Felines’ ‘Close to You’ is another stripped back and confident slice of contemporary rock, hinting at a secret love of Robin Guthrie’s guitar flourishes. Then there is the splendid young band Shiny Darkly (an epic and very Gothic post-punk band), who team up with Sharin Foo from the Raveonettes for a very supine track called ‘Roll The Dice’. All decidedly different.

But it’s also churlish to deny such simple and well crafted pop music as The Malpractices’s splendid puddle of sludge known as ‘Get Daddy On the Phone’, or The New Madness’s rocking ‘Go My Own Way’, especially in the way the track builds on the chorus line. The hyper-attentive twenty-first century listener, attuned to too much theory can be caught off guard by this record’s simple good nature in apparently throwaway dream pop such as ONBC’s ‘Dive Bar of Dreamers’ or Eggstone’s soul boy lament, ‘The Late’.

A heartfelt love of trash, irreverence and wackier sides of pop culture runs through this album like the colouring in a stick of rock. Some will know that the label name is lifted from a Python sketch, which may give a clue as to what drives this compact, friendly Copenhagen label. This silliness could be seen as grating or irrelevant in the serious and mildly antiseptic climate we currently find ourselves in, but I for one find this record incredibly refreshing. Inspiring, even.

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