City Paper is not for tourists.
Teen Smash Hits for Students: A Nifty Compilation was compiled as a benefit for St. Timothee’s School in Chateau Gaillard, Haiti, a 600-student institution threatened with closing for lack of funds, but it contains a few items that Caribbean kids might find arcane. This 16- song collection of D.C. (and a few Baltimore) bands includes such oddities as Branch Manager’s “Skull Splitter,” a jumpy, Half Japanesey track featuring dog barks; Shudder to Think’s Craig Wedren’s “Interpreting Robert Johnson,” an eerie, fragmentary (and maybe just a little pretentious) improvisation recorded live at the Black Cat as the singer listened (and the audience didn’t) to the bluesman on headphones; and Anasin’s “Playing Guitars,” a trebly electric-guitar improv recorded at the same club the same night.
Metal is nigh universal, though, so kids just about everywhere should understand the lumbering post-hardcore aggression of Antimony’s “Ainu” (named for the almost-extinct aboriginals of Japan); Ambassador Krill’s “Waterproof”; Las Mordidas’ “Revenge of the Anti-Hype Machine”; Ashes’ “Angel”; Wicker Pig’s “Aquarianne”; and—sprightly by comparison—Holy Rollers’ “Killing Alley,” which transforms police-radio chatter into an anti-violence chant.
There are no contenders for the Eurovision Song Contest here, but the range of tuneful possibilities is fairly wide: Trusty opens the album with an organ fanfare and then the brisk alterna-rock of “Wish It Were Me”; Rollercoaster lopes sweetly though “Stumble” (with a cameo by Ted Koppel); She Crabs levitate pealing guitar and shimmering harmonies in “Psychedelicate”; Jim Wilbur offers the noisy, homemade, but not shapeless “Trust the Florrs”; Lorelei grinds dreamily through “A Thigh for a Leg”; punk-folkie Lois turns “Page Two” into a thumping, most unfolkie experience; and Substance D’s “Isolated Version” floats beguilingly over a deliberate beat. Hard to say how all this might go down in Francophone Haiti, but up here it’s an agreeably diverse snapshot of the mid-’90s indie-rock scene—as well as a worthy cause. The album is $9 postpaid from Level Records, P.O. Box 21313, Washington, DC 20009.