OK, so maybe this how-do disc from Lewisville-based Tastes Like Love Records sounds as if it were recorded (and just barely) on a Walkman positioned under a pile of garbage in a trash can across the street from the studio. Maybe the biggest claim to fame any of these bands have is opening up for Bowling For Soup at Galaxy Club. And maybe they are stuck in a town that's little more than a rest stop between Denton and Dallas, where the only creativity can be found on the glaring, LCD-equipped marquee outside of Vista Ridge Mall. You can trust me on this one: I lived in Lewisville for the better part of a year and know for a fact that it is the armpit of suburban Dallas, a city that makes Allen look cosmopolitan in comparison.
Yet, somehow, none of it seems to matter to the four bands that appear here--Brian J, Holding Caulfield, Mary Brown Eyes, and Angel of the Odd. (Future releases are promised from Racoon, Duffer, and Josh Hamilton.) Armed with a computer and a fairly lofty business plan--the label has six employees, including a president, vice-president, and two chief executives--Tastes Like Love's main goal, according to the press release accompanying the disc, is to "bring a greater amount of attention and admiration for the hard-working, talented, yet unrecognized bands it signs." Of course, it helps that those bands are also the owners: Founder Jonathan Edwards is in Holding Caulfield and Racoon, and much of the rest of the staff divides itself between art and commerce at the label.
Still, you can't blame the groups for trying to garner a bit of attention for themselves; regular gigs at the Lewisville Amphitheater and Lone Star Bar (nope, me neither) will take you only so far, or nowhere. All of the groups have their moments--Holding Caulfield hits all of the right wrong notes, Mary Brown Eyes is a back-porch Belle & Sebastian, and Angel of the Odd is, um, odd, what with the abstract noise it makes on "Telling You a Story" giving way to a Violent Femmes rip on "Lizzy Brown Eyes." Brian J, however, is the real winner here, its pedal-pushing dynamics and music-box melodies overcoming occasionally (well, usually) overwrought vocals and the almost uncomfortable earnestness that pervades the group's songs. I mean, the first of three Brian J tracks on the sampler is titled "Love's Lost Beginnings." Probably couldn't expect anything less from a band on a label called Tastes Like Love. And after listening to this disc, you can expect a lot more from both the label and the bands on it.