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Various Artists | Antifolk Vol. 1 (Rough Trade)
It'll be interesting (to somebody, somewhere) to see how many of these names manage to crawl free of the restrictions being part of 'a scene' inherently impose. New York's Antifolk 'movement' is, on the evidence of this compilation, a ragged assemblage of open-mic stalwarts and more polished wordsmiths sharing little more than motor-mouth tendencies and a proficiency for strumming an acoustic guitar. Like a lost Sentridoh album, there are bursts of up-beat electrics and randomly spliced slices of soundbites to break the lo-fi acoustic template. Those familiar to impartial British observers include Adam Green and Kimya Dawson of in-vogue Moldy Peaches, Rough Trade labelmate Jeffrey Lewis, Shoeshine Records' Major Matt Mason USA and (reviewed elsewhere) Joie Dead Blonde Girlfriend, who, on the evidence of Another Journey, sounds like an unplugged Stiff Little Fingers, and is the kind of thing to inspire a quick u-turn at a venue doorway. Lach's Drinking Beers With Mom is puerile nonsense that unwittingly sounds like a Meat Loaf demo, Jim Flynn does his best to update Greenwich Village Dylan with his finger-picking and cultural observations, but lacks Dylan's genius and struggles to keep up with himself. Brer Brian does the slower-paced Woody Guthrie version with more success and, similarly enjoyable is the subdued Grey Revell, whose Gone Gone is a breath of fresh air in the dingy basement. Green's laid-back meandering My Shadow Tags Behind Me, and the accomplished country-blues of Turner Cody also rise above the murky mediocrity. Much of this record, however, reinforces the belief that Antifolk amounts to little more than attitude over talent.

Matt Dornan
August 2002