Black Box, Vol. 2
If you're looking to wrap your head around San Diego's incestuous, ever-changing indie-rock scene, this local compilation would be a good start. Produced by Golden Hill's Black Box Recording Studios, the digital release features 34 tracks by 33 bands (plus one highlights track), including everyone from indie-rock darlings Transfer to noise-rock freaks Kuntz.
Black Box released a 17-track volume in 2006, but this effort is much more ambitious. During the past year-and-a-half, Black Box owner Mario Quintero welcomed local bands to the studio to record a song for free; he ended up with enough music to fill three CDs. This offering isn't totally up-to-date—several of the bands have since split, or gone on hiatus—but it still makes for a rich, exhaustive cross-section of the local scene.
San Diego's always been a haven for aggressive bands, and the compilation shows that rawness and brutality are still common traits. While Archons serve up a bone-crushing slab of heavy metal in “Ghost of Python,” Kuntz sound genuinely insane with the dissonant guitars and creepy vocals of “Cocaine Igloo.”
Other tracks show the scene's less-aggro side. Writer create a weird kind of urban folk with the lilting guitar, heavy drums and rough-hewn, tremolo-coated vocals of “Swamp Fire Lake.” D/Wolves manage to cross the grooves of Afropop with the theatrical technicality of prog-rock in the gripping “Galianthropy.”
Some of the best tracks are by bands that have broken up (Da Bears' “Dinos”) or are on extended hiatus (The Paddle Boat's “The governor is Pleased”). Seasoned locals might get misty-eyed while listening to the one by Boyscout, a short-lived four-piece that featured the talented and beloved drummer Justin Jay, who died early this year and to whom the compilation is dedicated.
Boyscout hadn't released any material prior to this track, which is simply titled “Boyscout.” Members were busy playing in other bands, and, besides, their dual-guitar, dual-drum assault made their powerful live show the real highlight. This track finds them in top form, throwing down a triumphant riff with the aid of stomping drums and piercing horns. Capturing a good-hearted, communal ethos, it's not only the comp's most badass track; it could very well be an anthem for the local indie-rock scene as a whole.