Album Reviews

Various Artists – Rocket Girl 20

(Rocket Girl) UK release date: 1 March 2019

Various - Rocket Girl 20 After spending her time with independent labels Cheree and Che, Vinita Joshi decided to go it alone with her own label Rocket Girl. That was 20 years ago and over that time, her label has been one of the most wildly diverse and exciting in the music industry. Built on the back of dogged determination, a warmth and supportiveness, and of course a love and dedication to music, Vinita’s presence in the music world is a story of ups and downs, and a legacy of phenomenal music.

Most anniversary releases tend to be hastily compiled Best Of… collections, but for a label that prides themselves on presentation and with Vinita’s very personal approach and attention to detail, it’s no surprise to find that this celebratory release is something very special indeed. Rocket Girl 20 isn’t just a CD with a few favourite tracks thrown together, it’s a significant work of art in its own right.

Whilst the music is always at the heart of everything that Rocket Girl does, the DIY, personal aesthetic has always been important. The album is housed in a book that features the Vinita’s story in considerable detail and is accompanied with beautiful examples of Rocket Girl artwork, archive photography, fliers and the handwritten letter from Richey Manic to Cheree records.

The story covers Vinita’s her early days as a music lover, through to her experiences at Cheree and Che (where they were too busy to sign a fledgling Manic Street Preachers), and on to her Rocket Girl days. The heart of her story is the notion of music being the thing that brings us together, that gets us through the rough times, and is more often than not, the soundtrack to the good times too. Vinita herself comes across as someone who has dedicated her life to music. Not for gain, but almost because there’s an impulse within her to keep finding these amazing sounds that make us feel so much. It’s a story that comes with its ups and downs, like anybody’s life story, but it’s also inspirational, telling us that focus and dedication might not make us rich, but that it can lead to a fulfilling life.

The music itself isn’t just grabbed from old releases, Vinita has tried her best to find exclusive tracks from the bands that she’s worked with. So whilst the Mogwai track Fight For Work might have appeared as a Japanese bonus track, it’s still been rather elusive. In the collection itself the Mogwai track appears on a 7” flexi disc (and the download, don’t panic), a format that will give a twinge of nostalgia to those who remember them, fondly or otherwise. A further nod to old school formats comes with Bardo Pond‘s thunderous track Out Of Nowhere and Azusa Plane‘s shoegaze haze, Pop World, both of which appear on a bright orange 7” single.

The entire collection is filled with rough edged gems, hypnotic moments of beauty, jangling indie pop and forays into electronic chaos. There’s no particular defining musical genre, which is one of Rocket Girl’s main strengths although the basic kernel of a great tune sits at the heart of many of these songs. God Is An Astronaut‘s Reverse World (Quiet) offers an alternative take on the version that appears on the Origins album. Somehow it manages to be even more emotive in this form. Television Personalities All Coming Back tells the tales from the life of main man Dan Treacy. With its refrain of “did you really do this, do you really do that” it’s a catchy little pop number that manages to inject humour into Treacy’s current health and memory problems. Has he been onstage with MGMT? Did he preserve Nico‘s modesty while she pissed in a sink? Probably. And he made a great tune out of it too.

White Ring
and Andrew Weatherall bring the electro to the party. White Ring’s take on witch house manages to filter a range of influences from black metal to tightened disco funk into Heavy, a song that practically insists you dance but with some fear in your heart. Pieter Nooten‘s I Want You and Robin Guthrie‘s Flicker calm things down perfectly, exploring more ambient territory, whilst the likes of Jon DeRose and Bell Gardens offer grand scale, heartbreaking ballads (of a sort). With Silver Apples, Fuxa, A Place To Bury Strangers and Kirk Lake pulling in every conceivable direction, it’s fair to say that this is a collection of songs that will find a way of delighting anyone who happens upon it. Long term aficionados of Rocket Girl will perhaps not be surprised at the sheer depth of the quality and diversity on display, but they will be totally enamoured with the chance to hear these songs.

Rocket Girl 20 draws a line under the last 20 years. The world is a different place since Vinita started out on her own, but there’s still a place for a label that is driven with a huge passion for its artists and its music. The sheer dedication to the cause shines through in every aspect of this collection and due to the refined ear of its curator, there’s not a single misstep in the choices of songs, every single moment offers something exhilarating and intriguing.

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Various Artists – Rocket Girl 20
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