There’s an old adage that floats around our culture which states that the good guys never win. Unfortunately, reality seems to be out to prove this correct, with a large number of ‘winners’ doing everything they can to fall out of the ‘good’ bracket. Politicians tend to be power-hungry careerists, the best sports stars are often narcissistic jerks, the big players in film and music are often sexist or racist or both. And let’s not even begin with large, successful businesses.
Luckily for us, Lauren Rearick from The Grey Estates seems out to disprove the Bad Winners/Good Losers notion. After fighting through the formidable gauntlet of macho vanity and arrogance that makes up the music industry (see also: college, school, life), she has made her blog into one of the best, most consistent sites covering independent music right now. Mirroring her own attitude, she covers music made out of necessity, bands fighting a multitude of prejudistic blindspots because to not-fight is not an option. It might not be overtly militaristic or political, but the very act of persevering in the effort to create/promote such music is a strong statement. This sort of quiet commitment might be often overlooked but the importance of recognising and celebrating it cannot be underestimated. As if to mark her achievement and symbolise what it stands for, Rearick has teamed up with Negative Fun Records to put out Sugar Rush, a compilation of covers featuring female and gender-neutral musicians. The aim of the album is simple – to try to address the balance (or lack thereof) represented in contemporary music. As she explains:
“A glance at festival lineups, year-end lists and favorite bands are often missing a huge ingredient – female and gender-neutral acts. Sugar Rush was spurred by the idea of giving these individuals a voice, and introducing listeners to their sounds in a most unique way – with cover songs.”
Sugar Rush features contributions from some WTD favs, including Boosegumps, PONY and Kississippi, as well as a whole host of bands and artists that we’re unfamiliar with, just waiting to be explored. Claire Morales and Jena Pyle kick things off with a saccharine rendition of Pasty Cline’s ‘Strange’, the heartbreak flowing thick as molasses, while Kississippi’s cover of Sixpence None the Richer’s ‘Kiss Me’ is minimal and spacious, dreamy as a lovestruck gaze. Boosegumps reinvents Fleetwood Mac’s ‘Everywhere’ as a pretty and understatedly resplendent bedroom pop song and Seattle-based dream pop band Sundae Crush provide a quietly sweet take on ‘Unpretty’ by TLC.
The B side sees a change of mood, as Rearick puts it:
“We thought of the A-side as the sugar-y side, the sweet candy you enjoy before the B-side, when all that sugar begins rushing through your veins, leaving you ready to dance, party and load up on more sugary goodness.”
PONY begin the transition into upbeat danciness, updating Blink 182’s ‘Feelin This’ into a sharp and dynamic shoegazey pop song, before Susan take on The Violent Femmes’ ‘I Held Her In My Arms’, stumbling across a verse which could be used to sum up the compilation as a whole: “I will not kill / the one thing I love / In this world of wreckage, I look above / Help me, Lord, help me understand / What it means to be a boy and what it means to be a man”. Next, Pearl Earl offer a brash take on Devo, Mommy Long Legs bring their familiar energy to The Cramps and Alright race through a Bouncing Souls number. The penultimate track sees Philadelphia’s The Pretty Greens cover Lucille Mathis’ ‘(I’m Not Your) Regular Woman’, before Daddy Issues finish on a cool, dreamy version of ‘Riot Grrrl’ by Keel Her.
It’s likely there was no small amount of anxiety, doubt and stress involved in the making of Sugar Rush and The Grey Estates as a whole, so it’s no exaggeration to consider the whole time-draining, energy-sapping endeavour a noble quest indeed. While nobody is naive enough to think that one compilation and a dozen artists will ever be enough to win the big fight, it’s just possible that an accumulation of such small victories could eventually build into the coup de grâce for this discriminatory industry. So, if you are in a position to strike a blow of any size but need some reassurance and motivation, take a look at Rearick and then rush head-on into an attack of your own. Because make no mistake, a fight this certainly is.