Fortuna Pop!, 2008

Fortuna Pop! is the pre-eminent label for those special acts that can’t find a home anywhere else. Think of it as a shelter for the abandoned, misunderstood band either bursting with unrecognised talent or just looking for a place to crash. The sticker on the CD says “25 SMASH HITS from the vaults of Fortuna Pop!” which is pretty funny really since it’s all lies, but in an alternate, kinder reality this might not have been too far from the truth.

The continuing legacy of Fortuna Pop! is all too obvious with Be True To Your School. The only way you can judge a label is on the quality of their releases, and the years have been very kind, but not so as to validate the ‘fortuna’ side of the ‘pop!’. Pop, in this case, being well on display and in abundance. The ‘fortuna’ perhaps something of a sore point. Still, a label like this exists for love not money, and with the likes of Comet Gain, The Lucksmiths, The Butterflies of Love and The Aislers Set either passing through with a quick single or staying long enough for an album, there’s a lot of love to go round.

It would be a misconception to tag Fortuna Pop! as a twee act enabler, and there are enough artists on this compilation to dispel such a disparaging remark. The sweet harmonies of Tender Trap featuring ex-Talullah Gosh/Heavenly Amelia Fletcher make C86 sound like a not too distant memory. Australia’s Sodastream play it safe with a Belle and Sebastian pastiche. The Loves and Bearsuit are twee incarnate, incorporating the standard girl/boy vocal trade-off that you either love or hate. Spraydog and Mark 700 owe a debt to My Bloody Valentine, the latter having that warped guitar sound that reminds me of the sound a record player makes when you push your finger down on the vinyl when its playing. Twinkie and Finlay play around with Pixies style guitar pop to a less promising degree, but the real highlight for me is Taking Pictures, the band that started the label, sounding like a ingenious cross between Lou Reed and The Fall.

Assembled like a good mix tape, the latter half of the compilation brings out the big guns to finish with Airport Girl an  The Aislers Set lifting the quality control level up. Would-Be-Goods make like a French Nancy Sinatra with the strained melancholy of “Too Old”. One band that always seemed destined for the charts but never crossed over were Comet Gain and they still manage to dazzle with the sumptuous jangle-pop of “You Can’t Hide Your Love Away Forever. Homescience concludes the trip through memory lane with the chiming guitars and loping harmonies of “Small Music” that makes you glad that a label like Fortuna Pop! is out there, otherwise it’s unlikely these bands would exist anywhere else.

With a title that borrows from the Beach Boys, you really know what you’re in for and this compilation is abundant with those rare kind of pop gems that you only stumble over by accident. As far as value for money goes, you can’t do better than 25 tracks by 25 artists for the price of an average cd single. Be True To Your School should be renamed Be Kind To Your Record Label. A label like Fortuna Pop! is something to be cherished, supported and occasionally mocked.