Every decent music compilation should tell a story. In the case of Too Late To Stop Now! 1981-2011, a birthday celebration for indie label Reekus Records, the story is writ large across each of these 40 tracks cherry-picked from their stable over the past 30 years. It’s a sweet yarn too, for the large part. It tells of a land in thrall to rock ‘n’ roll but where more alternative acts struggled to find a home. It charts the labours of a woman called Elvera Butler who elaborated on her popular Kaught At The Kampus club night in the Cork Arcadia ballroom. Big names played there over the years, and Butler always ensured it was local acts getting the support slots. A culture was born. Butler and her team would go on to open offices in Dublin and London, launch careers and press records and toil away for presumably little monetary gain. But that’s what you do when you love something enough.
I say ‘alternative’, but Reekus could never have afforded to get involved with anything that couldn’t write a tune. Both discs are rife with examples of different angles of approach to the pop song. The first disc, concerned solely with the ’80s, is rightly heavy on material from flagship Reekus act The Blades and Paul Cleary. ‘Eyeballs’, by Nun Attax, is merrily deranged Nuggets-esque garage, while Micro Disney’s white reggae on ‘Victory’ is cleaved by a raw Dublin brogue. Aslan’s ‘This is’ must have floored them when they first heard that Christy Dignam vocal, but there was surely a debate or two over Nigel Rolfe’s drums-and-samples anti-Apartheid dirge ‘African Flower’. The eighties-tastic inclusions from Montage and Barry Warner are bemusingly charming, both overcooked lamentations on the drizzly decade that it was.
We then bypass the ’90s entirely (were things really that bad?) and go straight to the Noughties for the second disc. Current Reekus darlings Sweet Jane deliver an affirmative pummel on ‘Close Your Eyes’, and we get a couple of reasons to be reminded how good The Radio were while they lasted (would have liked something off Charm Offensive though). Saville, SuperJimenez, Carousel and Myp Et Jeep line up to take aim. These acts were and are people’s whole lives. They may not have made it to the big league or be able to put out their own best ofs. For all these acts and for Butler, this is their legacy. Good on you, Reekus.