Blame this one on completism. After I got the Load cassette from my grandmother and started corresponding with Damian at Level Records, I got their first 7", a compilation called Hamster that featured one of the Load tracks and was intended as the first in the Commemorative Rodent singles series. Turns out the series never really took, and there was just one more entry before Level closed and Damian et al moved on to bigger and better things. A few years ago I found Squirrel and was pleasantly surprised to find that it had an otherwise-unavailable track by one of my favorite Teenbeat groups, Tuscadero. That song, along with the Chisel song on the same record, is the true highlight here - with all apologies to readers who may feel otherwise, I'm afraid that most of the recordings here, especially on Hamster, simply aren't that good. So consider this post more of an anthropological study - you've heard the hits of the indie rock scene, now remember what it's like when things don't quite gel the way you wish they would.
With that said, a few words about the bands on Hamster: The back of the record lists both Worlds Collide and Ashes as animal rights activist bands ("hence Hamsters: don't kill 'em!") and sure enough I find a listing of Worlds Collide on a Krishnacore website. Apparently WC's singer Ken Olden also fronted such DC bands as Battery and Damnation AD, hardcore/emo bands that I am not at all familiar with, being more interested in the pop-side of the indie equation than the pure punk side. This might explain why I'm not crazy about "Effect of the Age". The Ashes track, on the other hand, is pretty good - and apparently band members Brian McTernan and Matt Squire have gone on to make names for themselves as producers and whatnot (check the wiki links). Load you know about from the last post. Finally, I Spy was (surprisingly) from Winnipeg of all places and were another hardcore/emo band (the singer went on to play in Propagandhi), represented here with a reggae-tinged song that predisposes me not to like the band, because I've never heard a reggae song I liked.
Hamster split 7", 1993
Level, no. 1
A1. Worlds Collide, "Effect of the Age" (3:20)
A2. Ashes, "Tainted Skies" (5:16)
B1. Load, "The Strike" (4:25)
B2. I spy, "Everything" (3:18)
Things improve considerably on Squirrel. For starters there is a very good - if not great - track by Tuscadero. This song sounds like it could have been their first release, though I believe they had already had a few singles out on Teenbeat by the time this came out. While they don't quite have their bubble-gum/girl-group/Joan Jett nostalgia-trip thing down yet here, they are clearly having a good time. Following their song is a great track by Ted Leo's early band Chisel, which beautifully marries a punk-pop vibe with white guitar noise - turn it up loud! On side B we have a track by Frodus, who it seems have recently reformed and who are here evidenced with a pretty good, mathy discordant number. The final track is one-off collaboration between the hardcore bands Bloodlet and Damnation, which brings us full circle back to Worlds Collide. But enough with the chatter, check out the tunes!
Squirrel split 7", 1995
Level, no. 5
A1. Tuscadero, "Island Girls" (4:04)
A2. Chisel, "Out for Kicks" (2:37)
B1. Frodus, "22-D10" (3:02)
B2. Bloodnation, "Flesh of Another" (4:17)
Get both records here. Enjoy!