Thursday, September 11, 2008

Portastatic - some small history

So maybe you've heard that Mac's got a new Portastatic odds and sods comp called Some Small History out at the Merge. A beautifully packaged double disc set, in fact, and one limited to a mere 3000 copies. It'll be a cold day in hell before I speak ill of a Mac McCaughan or Superchunk release, but lucky for me (us) the quality control standards are so good as it concerns our Mac that I don't seem that blindly partisan. 

My unabashed fandom aside, it's hard to argue against the fact that Mac is an indie rock renaissance man on par with Steve Albini or Corey Rusk. Merge, the label he founded with Superchunk bassist Laura Ballance in 1989, has been a success virtually since it's inception, but recently the Merge A&R ears have been mining pure gold, releasing the Arcade Fire, Spoon, Bob Pollard and even the new Conor Oberst record. The last Arcade Fire record went in the charts at#2, no small feat for an indie label, especially one in 2008. While I'm sure champagne was uncorked when the listings got sent to Durham, it's never been just about sales for the Triangle label. Mac and Laura are undoubtedly keeping an eye on the bottom line, but Merge was formed to release Superchunk material as well as records from their friends and it remains that way to this day. Personally I would break a Spoon record and jam it in my ear rather than listen to it, an Arcade Fire, or a Conor Oberst Happy Fucking Funtime Family record but I can and will give all the props to Mac and Laura for having great taste in music in general and for looking out for their friends whenever they can. They, like so many others, seem to have prospered without having the full approval of JS-NYC enterprises. 

Owning your label makes it a lot easier to release your own material. Mac has released 27 projects under his Portastatic nom du rock to date, in various formats and genres. I won't say that all of them are totally great, but I can say that even the worst overly keyboarded demos are light years better than the aural diarrhea that Ryan Adams releases via his seemingly infinite slew of cast-off material. Most importantly, Mac realized some songs just weren't good enough. That happens sometimes, Ryan. Accept it and get a producer already.

But I digress. Some Small History has a gang of comp and split tracks, along with demos dating back to '92 and a gang of covers from Dylan, Galaxie 500, Magnetic Fields and others. Fear not. collector nerds, there's your fair share of unreleased stuff, too, including a pre-Portastatic recording featuring one Mr. Jim Wilbur. You get 44 tracks over two discs and some pretty bitchin' gatefold digipak action for your consumer dollar. The price? $13.99 US greenback dollars. You really can't argue with that. In fact, you should really just buy it HERE. If for some stupid reason you only want MP3s of the tracks, Merge Digital will hook you up for a mere $9.49 here. Remember that the next time you pony up a kidney for that shitty Radiohead limited eco-release made from Thom Yorke's digital composting. Some Small History is moving quick, so act fast and keep the lights on over at Merge. Maybe then we can get a new Chunk record Mac? Or at least a demo of Learn To Surf? Please!

Portastatic is in town soon. Stay tuned.

R

1 comment:

365holdsteady said...

Auuuugh, come the hell on. It's like you've never even heard "Series of Sneaks"!