No Safety - a Mountain Goats' tribute album

I have lately been enjoying listening to No Safety, a tribute album to one of my favourite bands, the Mountain Goats.

The full story is available within a thread on the Mountain Goats' website, most of the tracks are on a single file for download, although there were a couple that missed the compilation that are appended to postings, and are well worth seeking out.

Someone started off the forum thread with a suggestion that people each contribute their own cover of the track Going to Georgia for a tribute album. Going to Georgia is one of the most popular tracks by the Mountain Goats, though I must confess to not being terribly vexed about it as a track.

Now the idea seems a bit borderline sensible, borderline bonkers. However it actually works very well. The different versions are all sufficiently differentiated to be worth listening too, and because it is the same song, they actually hang together pretty well. It makes for a good background album, you maybe don't need to think about it too much, but it will occassionally grab your interest with something totally arresting or surprising.

I do hope that I am not damning with faint praise, it is a really enjoyable listen, every track is different and of a professional standard, while having a real indie creative vibe to it. There is nothing workmanlike to any of the tracks. The tracks that have most caught me so far have been one by Joe Harbison, which is instantly compelling and electronic, and a bonkers version sung in Norwegian, but there is not a dud version amongst them. Clearly these are some very talented and creative people.

It used to be that what we saw, read, listened to, were all mediated through the process of being published. So quality was consistent, maybe not high, but certainly consistent. The Bloomsbury Set, Algonquin Round Table, or a myriad of other groups demonstrated how narrow and non-inclusive this process was.

However now there need be no mediation through the process of being published. Self publication used to be the vanity press, and accordingly distained. Now numerous people have demonstrated the ability to move from self-publication on the web to creating a perfectly valid career of their own. I have probably touched on this already, so I won't stress over listing folk like Merlin Mann, Scott Sigler, and Jonathan Coulton.

Equally valid there are plenty of people who create material of interest and genuine worth that finds its own small audience. In the past this might have involved bands doing weddings and random gigs at pubs, either performing generic material that people liked, or less generic material that most people did not like, even if a few did.

But now it is straightforward to create material, straightforward to make it available more widely, straightforward to find very niche product. Talent is required rather than just technique or contacts.

Accordingly I can now listen to an album of different versions of the same song, by a band that most people have never even heard of. All the songs are produced with professionalism, passion and real flair.

The world is changing, and sometimes it changes for the better.