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Various Artists | This Is Next Year (Arena Rock Recording Company)
"I celebrate myself," Walt Whitman wrote, and it seems like America took him at his word. You don't have to stay there long to see how prone to narcissism the nation is. It's a collective self-satisfaction that narrows down to a local level also - it's difficult to walk many New York blocks before running into an 'I Love New York' t-shirt or bag, or listen to the radio for long before being interrupted by a station advert proclaiming 'this is the greatest city in the world'. Last year, the notes accompanying a compilation called 'The Women of Williamsburg', a collection of female musicians from Brooklyn's pseudo-bohemian art enclave, described the area in such hyperbolic tones that you'd be forgiven for expecting the second coming to take place on Bedford Avenue. Ostensibly continuing this intersection between self-congratulation and honest celebration comes 'This Is Next Year', a bargain-priced, all-for-charity, two-disc, 42-track compilation of Brooklyn-based bands; concurrently a philanthropically-minded showcase of the borough's music and a collective territorial boast. In this case though, you can't fault the boasting. Anyone who is in any way in harmony with Henry Rollins's dismissal of UK music as "all about hairspray and production values" should get hold of this compilation, if only to underline what they already know. Not that the collection is necessarily stuffed with winning songs, there's a feeling that it's largely made up of donated offcuts or tracks that hadn't previously found a home. But the sheer wealth of music impresses on it's own. True to some kind of theme, several bands appear with vaguely NY-related tracks, like Home's Brooklyn, or NY's Alright (If you Like Saxaphones) by Enon, and NY Avenue Playground by Cindy Wheeler. Curios come from Clem Snide who have penned music to accompany lyrics by Daniel Johnston, and Hearts Don't Break a song by Jodi Buonanno of Secret Stars, here performed by Ida. Among the more recognisable names like They Might Be Giants, Rainer Maria, and Laura Cantrell, are newer gems by the likes of Interpol, Hem and Champale. The whole thing stays within a broadly indie rock remit, which means nothing too jazzy, no rap, nothing too electronic, which is only an issue if you take the album's subtitle to indicate an attempt at representing the gamut of Brooklyn music. There's scant here that will individually blow anyone away, but taken as some kind of self-validating calling card it makes a good case for the benefits of those inflated Manhattan rents. And if the music itself doesn't do the trick for you, try contemplating how a similarly expansive compilation rooted in a similarly localised area of London would shape up. Roll on next year.

Martin Williams
November 2001