Now, in Lawrence, a small scene has sprung up around Rangelife Records, a label led by the brothers Hangauer (Patrick, Zach and Brandon). Its roster consists of artists and bands such as Justin Roelofs, 1,000,000 Light Years and Fourth of July. Rangelife has scored distribution through Omaha's storied Saddle Creek label. That's great, but it's not something that Kansas City can really lay claim to.
Anyway, I was beginning to wonder whether I was in a rut, spending too much time, attention and drinking money in the Triangle, becoming too nearsighted to view the scene objectively.
If I am, then I'm not the only one.
Kansas City has just drawn First Blood on the music industry.
Local label OxBlood Records' second release is a kick-ass 16-track compilation of KC bands (and a couple from Lawrence). It proves that our scene demands wider recognition. After all, how often is a scene so strong that people start up a whole fucking label?
For the artworkalone, this CD should be in the collection of every Kansas City music fan. The insert features three glorious photographs of a bloody melee taking place at the Record Bar, starring most of the local musicians whose bands are on the comp. In one shot, American Catastrophe's Terrence Moore holds Namelessnumberheadman's Chuck Whittington in a headlock, about to sock him, while Chuck's bandmate, Jason Lewis, jumps over Moore's shoulder to grab a handful of the tall bastard's hair.
Overall, the hourlong record contains as diverse and rich a roster of songs as you're likely to hear on a sampler tacked to the latest issue of CMJ or passed out on the streets by promoters at South By Southwest. And it probably sounds better; each track on the comp was recorded and produced by the same guy, Paul Malinowski.
My favorites include the one-two punch of opening tracks "Garlic," a breakneck psychedelic guitar jam by Be/Non, and "Made Concrete," a masterpiece of electronic dream-pop by newbies the Republic Tigers.
I also love the weary, catchy "Friends" by Olympic Size, an end-of-the-night rebuke to a misbehaving mate; American Catastrophe's stomping train ride, "Iron Horse"; and the Pedaljets' slacker-groovin' "Burgundy," with its chorus of handclaps and classic entreaties to a rock-and-roll "candy girl." (The once-prominent 'jets have been re-recording old songs with Malinowski, hence their sudden emergence from retirement.)
It's like Christmas, hearing a new cut from Namelessnumberheadman: "Unchopping Our First Tree" finds the pioneering electronic-acoustic trio in top melodic form. Right after that, Ghosty returns from a year and a half of studio silence with "Make It Easier," a charming little black raincloud of a song that stands up with the band's best.
The disc also features sweet jams from the Roman Numerals, the Ssion, the Architects, In the Pines, Lovers in Transit, the Golden Republic, White Whale and two lesser-known new bands, Acousma (melodic hard rock) and Softee (simple, punky pop).
Ten of the bands from the comp play the Record Bar Friday and Saturday night. A filmmaker and his crew will shoot the concerts and interview the musicians to make a documentary to enter at festivals.
It's almost unbelievable, but, yeah, there really are some amazing bands in town. Come out this weekend, buy the CD and get blown away by these unknown Midwestern musicians who have no money.