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"Eternal youth forever" - VARIOUS ARTISTS TIGHTEN UP VOLUME 1 – DELUXE EDITION - album review.



(Trojan)
Dissolve. Into the ether. Surveying pop history like Jesus on the hill, wondering who to bless with a pentapeptide spillage of immortality. Eternal youth forever so fuck the artists, fuck the bands, the perishable liaisons and fading friendships, the reunion-tours waiting to happen - here's to the factories, the immutable galvanization that only raw commerce can create, the production lines, the white-hot centers of excellence that blaze new trails, the ferociously competitive local vipers nests whose sparks fuel the fire which burns the rocket fuel to the firmament. Atlantic. Motown. Stax. Tin Pan Alley. Def Jam. And of course Trojan and the Jamaican scene it peddled to Brit skinheads. What's always made the music on the Tighten Up comps such a great introduction to ska and rocksteady (and onwards to roots & dub) for the wary is their sheer irresistibility as pop music – the strength of songwriting nous, sharpened by a thirst for precisely the sweet deep fizz coming from those black American sweatshops I've mentioned, a thirst that had never dimmed since the 50s soundsystems first partied-up the island & primed it for independence. So this music found a new off-beat sway called Ska roundabout 64, slowed into rocksteady come 67, and got sent back and repackaged by Trojan for this grey-isle and ex-pat Kingstonians and mods appalled by hippiedom and has had a deep hold ever since. Hearing it, every time, after so many times, you can somehow feel it in your blood and bones and memories, especially round my way and probably your way too; Coventry, Bristol, London, Manchester, NYC, Düsseldorf – this sound, bass-heavy, aimed at the feet and the winding waist, shot through and gunning on a melodic instinct that never lets up, ran deep into pop's veins and remains one of the best party-starting guaranteed-floor-filling soundtracks the 20th Century ever gave us. But . . .



. . .surveying pop's current obsessive hell-march marshaling of history like Dante led by Virgil, wondering who deserves this smug curatorship, what all this re-telling and re-mastering gains us. Eternal youth forever so fuck this ease, fuck this orgiastic necrophilia (of which Trojan have long been amongst the most slaggish participants), fuck the re-issue market. Here's to mystery, to the search, to finding a Tighten Up comp (sans the pointless b-sides and bonus-track anorak-completion this 'deluxe' edition fleshes things out with) on vinyl 2nd hand and sticking with it. Because that was the statement that was made. And that is still the statement that will skewer you. Get a Tighten Up comp that clocks in at under 40 minutes, that doesn't give you opportunities to skip to your faves or burn them into a digital dispensability you can meld with your lifestyle, here's to compilations that fit on one side of a C-90, that stick 13 shades of pop perfection in your ear and kicks them home like a booted screwdriver, compilations who's random range and chaotic charge worked way better than this grotesque 2-disc gerrymandering of acetates and afterthoughts, this attempt to shame this music into behaving.  Volume 1 isn't the best Tighten Up comp anyhoo (that's got to be Volume 2 for The Pioneers, Soul Sisters and Upsetters) and has (as the b-sides reveal) too much of a placental link to American r'n'b to sound as unique and unforgettable as later Tighten Ups would. But don't let specifics blind you to the wider war: it's getting disgusting the sheer lack of effort that the reissue market engenders, the unearned undeserved backslaps hipsters can give their own posturing eclecticism, the way that all music becomes judged by how neatly you can slot it in to the lineage,  (as opposed to how a chased dead-end can bully everything else out of your head), the clamour for cash-from-the-cannon rendering all accessible/nothing meaningful. I know for a fucking fact that exposure to the instant-thrills of a Tighten Up comp on vinyl will lead you on to a love-affair that'll last your whole life, but this essentially tedious flogging of a long-devoured horse is in danger of being so flabbily, bloatedly tiring in it's obscurantism and spoddish 'collation' it might put you off the riches to come on the myriad trails outwards. Don't let that happen and put the bleedin' hours in you lazy fucks, spit out the teat, stop the pig-out, the feeding frenzy, the gluttony, stay hungry and fucking well concentrate. Into your shell. 
NEIL KULKARNI

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