can’t help but make snap judgements. Wading through the Stylus Singles Jukebox contenders every week, I’ve usually all but decided on a score for each by the end of the first chorus. Excercise1 Recordings understands this attitude: their new charity compilation is all about first impressions. 50 Minutes features 50 contributors, each allotted exactly sixty seconds.
Taking in mainly unsigned artists, with the occasional representative from credible UK indie labels (Transgressive, Truck, Moshi Moshi), you’re not likely to have heard of most of the names here. But as an overview of the British indie scene, 50 Minutes reveals a few surprises: cheap and cheerful keyboards are now even more popular than cheap and cheerful guitars; Mew are influential enough to have acquired meticulous imitators Wry; it really is still possible to find 50 tracks without including a single band that wants to be Arctic Monkeys.
Daniel Johnston is the closest thing to a big name here, so the draw is the potential for discovery. And with such a large selection, there’s likely to be something to suit most tastes. The speed with which the songs rush by actually means that the hit/miss ratio doesn’t even have to be that large to be rewarding. There are more hits than not anyway: whether it be in Piney Gir’s fuzzy menace, Emmy The Great’s heart-on-sleeve folk, or Akira’s manic electronica. Jeremy Warmsley, whose relentlessly inventive album was often too full of ideas, benefits from the enforced discipline, while Dead! Dead! Dead! are brave enough to turn over half of their minute to a brooding instrumental intro before snapping into seething art rock. In short, there are a lot more highlights than are worth listing.
If it’s occasionally frustrating to have such enjoyable songs snatched away so soon, the feeling only lasts for as long as it takes for the next great moment to turn up. Listening to 50 Minutes frequently feels like surfing the radio dial and getting only the most interesting snatches of music. Even the unconvincing and the totally throwaway become more likable in context—I wouldn’t want to spend more than a minute with a good proportion of those included, but it’s difficult to begrudge them that time. Indeed, if it wasn’t for MC Lars’ embarrassing “If I Had a Time Machine, That Would Be Fresh,” which is even worse than its title suggests, there wouldn’t be a single skippable track in the bunch. That’s an achievement.
Reviewed by: Iain Forrester
Reviewed on: 2007-01-04