As a marketing professional by day, I tend to overanalyze how labels promote their releases. With artists from Look Out, Negative Progression, Initial and Better Looking, “Playing 4 Square 3” is billed as “A compilation of four of the best independent record labels.” Descriptive enough, but also curious as it makes one wonder why four of the best independent labels are depending on each other to release a compilation.
Immediately, images of forgettable Slaughter/LA Guns/Warrant/Dokken/Ratt club tours spring to mind. In the case of the ‘80s metal reunions, marketing was merely a matter of gathering enough half-baked, has-been bands to actually sell 3,000 tickets. It’s a power-by-numbers ploy that ensures each band gets to eat dinner, but it doesn’t necessarily translate to monumental profit.
Fortunately for Suburban Homes Records – the fine distributor of Playing 4 Square 3 – this compilation is not a fitting cousin to the metal mayhem tours that have underwhelmed so many and caught the attention of so few. Instead, the disc is an excellent listen that not only provides the buyer with something of value but also ensures the labels involved have the opportunity to showcase their latest acts. After all, what would a compilation be if it didn’t properly promote a label’s catalog?
With some fine progressive punk, power pop, emo and melodic cuts from acts like Helicopter Helicopter, The June Spirit and The Jealous Sound, the third installment in the Playing 4 Square series is arguably the best of the bunch. Standout tracks include Counterfit’s opening barrage “Living in Traffic” and No Knife’s “The Red Bedroom.” Honorable mention goes to The And/Ors’ “Flexicocks” – a curiously creative song title with an equally compelling, punked-up Missing Persons’ vibe.