Various Artists – Be True To Your School (A Fortuna POP! Compilation)
Fifteen years is a very long time to not make money doing something, so anyone who braves such an undertaking should probably be congratulated or committed (in the mental sense, not stick-to-itiveness). The legacy of Fortuna POP! records is far funnier than most, and has also produced some records and artists that have consistently threatened to fall into mainstream hands but never quite made it (well, some of them are making it, but we’ll get to that). This adds charm and underground kudos, but no money at all, you’ll not be surprised to find out.
Be True To Your School is a potted history, one track from most of the bands who were/are on the label, and it makes for a wistful listen. Those familiar with the label will recognise it mostly as one that supposedly mopped up after the spillage of C-86, but one listen to this compilation shows it to be something quite substantially larger and freeform than that. For a start, there’s noise (courtesy of the almost-forgotten but fucking tremendous Finlay and the ever-experimenting Bearsuit), Americana (courtesy of the deranged but beautiful Butterflies Of Love), pub-commentary (courtesy of the Northern indie legends Milky Wimpshake and the erudite MJ Hibbett), dance (courtesy of the slinky beat-theft and soul-sampling of Cannonball Jane) and, yes, twee (courtesy of, most notably, Australia’s shining Lucksmiths and the received pronunciation grit of The Would-Be-Goods). An amazing roster.
If forced to pick a favourite from this excellent and exhausting line-up, the sensible choice is Conneticut’s Butterflies Of Love – theirs is the strangest story, the longest road and probably the finest music. Rob A Bank still tingles after ten years, and is undoubtedly the best single the label ever released. But sensible choices are not always the best, and so I’m plumping for Finlay. Simply one of the finest live bands imaginable (their final Buffalo Bar show saw flowers being thrown into the crowd and a duck-walk guitar solo on the bar), two excellent albums (which demand exploration) of alternate violence and consideration, and all over for now. Sad. Mention also must go to the similarly missed Sodastream, who played pretty much the best show anyone’s ever played back in 2007 at St. Giles’ Church in London. I’m not one for too many religious references, but that night it felt like the big guy was smiling too. Good one, God.
But by Christ! There’s longevity to the label, scope for future and a remarkable ability for picking indie taste du jour – Bowie-endorsed and friends of Darren Hayman pop winners Fanfarlo, Guardian-endorsed and friends of Daniel Johnston retro-pop sluggers The Loves and plenty more to come in the approaching years, one doesn’t doubt. So with this retrospective, one is drawn to the future. There’s life aplenty in Fortuna POP!, even if no-one’s swimming in piles of money like Scrooge McDuck, and the quality control meter appears to be swinging into green for the most part. There’s too much to mention here, just dive straight in to these nuggets of pop perfection and appreciate the label for all it’s done for us. Just don’t mention twee.