Look in certain quarters (State included) and there are plenty who will tell you that the Irish music industry is in rude health. Our bands are getting both kudos abroad and commercial success at home, coupled with a healthy underground scene. All we need now is someone to document it. Step forward, perhaps unexpectedly, EMI Records. Although the Irish industry is generally seen in independent terms, the major label has been home to a number domestic acts from Codes to Cathy Davey and Oliver Cole. All appear here, alongside other mainstream signings and their DIY colleagues.
All of which should prove The New Breed an out and out winner. Unfortunately it doesn’t quite hit the mark. At forty tracks the admirable aim is stretched just a little too thin, resulting in far too many identikit indie bands (most of which feature The in their name) at the expense of some of the more experimental stuff out there and glaring omissions such as Villagers, Fight Like Apes and Jape. There are some odd song selections too. Are Ham Sandwich and Republic Of Loose really best served by tracks five years old? Probably not.
The annoying thing is that The New Breed does have its great moments. Two Door Cinema Club kick us off in fine fashion, more than matched by Fred, Delorentos, The Chapters, Ham Sandwich and Messiah J & The Expert. After such a shimmering start, the sheer averageness of the The bands is a real let down. Thankfully the second disc offers a lot more delights. Le Galaxie and The Ambience Affair are the records’ highlights by a mile, while Halves, Subplots, RSAG, And So I Watch You From Afar, Bats and Adebesi Shank all fly the flag for the genuinely new breed. Why then make us suffer Paula Flynn’s inexorable David Bowie cover along side? It just doesn’t make sense.
And that is the problem with the album, it doesn’t quite hang together. Compiled with obvious care (the packaging is stylish and informative) it nevertheless misfires too often to be a genuinely on the mark representation of the domestic music scene. The key question is what the record aims to achieve. If this is merely designed to preach to the converted then it’s fallen short. But if the EMI name can be used to spread the word beyond those in the know then The New Breed may prove to be useful after all.