Various Artists, The Ghost Town Initiative (Ghost Town Initiative, 2020)

If you’re like me, you fondly recall the bygone era in which every cause célèbre spawned countless compilations of wildly differing quality. Some were painstakingly recruited while others cobbled together out of band’s cast-offs and cutting room floor extras. Regardless, we’re living in a punk scene largely, though not wholly, devoid of compilations. Cue the Ghost Town Initiative. 

The collective is responsible for a 94 track, name your price (1 Euro minimum) compilation compiled of predominantly French artists. 100% of the proceeds and donations are going to the Confédération Nationale du Travail de la Gironde, a Paris-based labor union. From there, the money will be redirected and distributed to those most affected by COVID-19 and the subsequent lockdown across France. These times bring out the best in us, I think, and this is a rad gesture of solidarity from the international scene. Respect. 

Discretionary income being what it is, I’ve screened the comp in its entirety for you dear readers. As I’m a buffoon in the best of times, my current state is what I’ve dubbed “the glorious unraveling.” I couldn’t simply listen and enjoy the Ghost Town Initiative’s righteous labor of love, I decided to review EVERY. SINGLE. SONG. Not since the 1999 Fat Wreck comp, Short Music for Short People, have I endeavored to listen to something so encyclopedic in one sitting.

Running the gamut from screamo, metal, punk, post-rock, indie, folk to synth-weirdness; there’s literally something for everyone with even a passing interest in guitar-based sounds. I was gonna include track titles, but y’all are gonna have to hit the link or drop a couple bucks even. So here ‘tis my friends in all its bite-sized, alphabetical glory. 94 reviews about 94 bands...

Acedia Mundi: Tremolo heavy black metal with a band name meant to be assembled by twigs.

Ainez Techy: proggy goodness with enough math to give me High School flashbacks. 

Alice HA: Singer-songwriter that wrote a rad song and sang it earnestly. 

Atavisma: Crushing doom that made my bowels shake and proceeded to last the entire time I was pooping.

Avalanche: Singer is a dead ringer for Davey Von Bohle and he croons over ambling and noodly emo. 

Bear and Forbear: After an exhausted and maudlin 30 seconds, it turns into some gruff and ripping pop-punk that definitely passes out on the streets of Gainesville. Go, uhhh, Gators! 

Beers and Laughs: On the name alone, this was either gonna be orgcore/beardpunk or folk-punk. It’s the latter but still kinda slaps. 

Bitpart: Lucero’s guitarist meets the Kill Rock Stars roster and makes morbid dance punk. 

Birds In Row more cathartic screamo/hardcore perfection from France’s finest folks that crop their faces outta photos. 

Birds in Row (Photo: Reid Haithcock)

Cambarada: Longform post-rock hardcore that feels apocalyptically comforting... bunker-core, if you will.

Canine: If At The Drive-In wrote songs this good on their return LP, they’d still be here. 

Catisfaction: Lo-fi post-punk with feline approved bass lines and nine lives worth of backing vocals. 

Championnes: Raucous riot grrrl unafraid of slinky synths.

Chaviré: Small Brown Bike lost a wheel but these ACAB-touting dudes found it and built their own. 

CHEERS: Gamits-style pop-punk that says “Cowabunga” and rocks like Osker.

Colision: Heavy post-hardcore that keeps its vocals in the, uhhhh, Knapsack.

CØLLIDERS: Skatepunk that powerslides into a Full Collapse-like mega-breakdown. 

Constante: Awesome post-rock screamo that’s longer than “Cortez the Killer” but much louder. 

Cosmopaark: Woozy indie rock that bends and moves like Modest Mouse being chased by an honest cat. 

Dabblin’: Someone check on this Radon-worshipping crew and let them know you can’t drive to the Fest from Marseilles. You can still pack the harmonica, though.

Dark Days: This ia somewhat indescribable DIY punk screamo band that I apparently just described.

Dead Horse One: Shoegazey radio friendly unit shifter that’s definitely heard Hum. 

DEAD KIWIS: Decidedly undead, these folks aren’t from New Zealand but play chaotic metalcore that’s still figuring out how to calculate infinity. 

Déception: Atmospheric black metal with a weeping choir of mountain lions as vocalists. 

Décibelles: Wicked, bouncy, funky, sexy, sleazy. Describing indie is never easy.

des Astres: Fantastic ambient post rock band seeks singer to do absolutely nothing. Microphone not needed. 

Dogs for Friends: Can you imagine if The Postal Service swapped Death Cab dude for Ian Curtis but still somehow sounded awesome? This band certainly did. 

ellisine: If Julien Baker covered amazing-core, it might sound like this Defeater cover. 

Etxegiña: They’ve cornered the market on French Red Anarchist Melodic Black Metal with lyrics inspired by the Spanish Civil War. 

EUX: Lung-shredding screamo/emoviolence for those who abhor brevity. 

Filthcult: Doomy grind and noise FFO skulls, photocopied covers, butt flaps, dogs with rope for leashes, NOLA sludge.

Filthcult (Photo found on band's Facebook page)

First Came the Shadow: Epic post-rock that sounds as much like Red Sparowes as it does Joe Satriani gone djent.

Glen Football: Friendship punk that knows its way around a jangly chorus and the Latterman discography.

Grief: These dudes have clearly never “Come to Grief” but play some rad mathy screamo anyway.

Gros Enfant Mort: Google tells me the band name translates to “Fat Dead Child” which sounds far less cool for this cool, sprawling French post-hardcore scream unit. 

Guerilla Poubelle: If they don’t own stock in Leatherface and all things Frankie Stubbs, they’re investing wrong. 

Hallali: Someone stole Billy Bragg’s guitar tone from the Back to Basics sessions and made a jangly, moving song with a harmonica at the end. 

Heavy Heart: I hope their practice space is littered with France’s equivalent to Pabst Blue Ribbon, Camels, and Off With Their Heads posters… cuz it sounds like it. 

Hundred Eyes: Lotsa bands from Marseilles and this one plays violent, nihilistic screamo that sounds like all black, scuffed Converse lows.  

Immatures Immatures: play mature, sad-sack anthems in their native tongue that still sound relatably fucking depressed. 

In Der Welt: Post-hardcore metal that loves low tuning, floor toms, and Cult of Luna.

INPUT’es: It’s as if Swingin’ Utters were the ones who actually reinvented Axl Rose.

Intenable: Considering this is folk-punk, the accompanying cello was likely pilfered from Guitar Center. 

Johk: No Idea Records might be too far a commute, but it’s worth a try?!

Joyeuse: Fin folk rock-pop that uses a brush on the snare drum. He almost screamed once and that part was rad. 

The Konbonis: EPI-FATness from a place called Vitre, ya’ dig?

LKILL: Riot grrrl muzik that’s sleek and more angular than the Geometry class I cheated my way through.

Lost In Kiev: I’ve never been lost in Kiev, but I got lost in Pennsylvania once and it was almost as disorienting as this spacy, instrumental prog but nowhere near as awesome. 

Low Relief: Touché some-moré! This is pretty dope emotive hardcore that doesn’t stay over when you want it to go home. 

Lunch: More gruff than Mcgruff — snitching by day and gargling gravel with flannel punks at night.

M0N0CHR0ME ZER0: Rumbles along like a Speak and Spell had sex with a bass guitar on the set of Stranger Things while someone whistles in the background. Sound rad? Thought so. 

Marigold: Jesus, is that a lizard?! The reptiles are loose and they’ve swallowed my stash of amphetamines but zookeeper has golden pipes.

Mary Bell: A compilation highlight of grunge-aping riot grrrl that could’ve opened for Hole or Bratmobile.

Mauvaise Pioche: I thought mauvaise was a type of cheese but it means “bad.” This wouldn’t be a mauvaise choice to open for Brian Fallon. 

MAVEN: If you listen to this and press mute while watching Friday Night Lights, there’d be no words. There’d be twinkly post-rock. 

MFCS: Über-earnest solo folk that sounds like Gogol Bordello when it gets excited… and it’s usually excited.  

Mohani: Sounds a bit like Sigur Rós but maybe that’s because I can’t understand it? Either way, kinda rad bleep-bloop indie.

Montagne: Pretty sweet Neur-Isis jams that also proves the “Firestorm” riff works in any format. 

MØN: Got this mixed up with MØL so I was expecting black-gaze, but this sounds like the end credits to a '90s drama about friends that reconnect while drinking beers at their old childhood treehouse. 

MSS FRNCE: Dischordant hardcore that sounds like Pissed Jeans playing Bikini Kill.

Naatlo Sutila: Raging and pissed hardcore that would actually make you piss in your jeans. 

Naufrage: The mighty Dillinger Four once said “farts are jazz to assholes” which isn’t so much relevant as it is funnny. This is kinda jazzy, mathy, space rock indie. 

OffshOre!: Ever seen the movie about a rad punk band makes rad punk songs that maybe sound a bit like RVIVR if they liked easycore breakdowns? That’s not a movie, dummy… 

Pink Flamingos: Automatically is awesome because I live in Baltimore and we don’t besmirch the good name of John Waters! Good thing it sounds like a Limey Anti-Flag if they kidnapped Bad Religion.

Piscine: This track is almost five minutes and it’s recorded so quietly they either have keyboards and a cowbell or neither of the above. 

Poesie Zero: No lie, this sounds like Atom and His Package soundchecking during a Choking Victim show. 

PVST: Angsty post-rock and screamo that proves France has this shit on lock. 

Quitters: “Paging Iron Chic. Iron Chic, you have a telephone call at the front desk.” Rad stuff from admitted giver-uppers.  

Ronces: Deftly mixes some shredding, balladry, and weird tape hiss into a tossed salad of antidepressants. Serve cold. 

S’abandonner: So loud you’ll check behind your couch to make sure these devotees of “the wave” and Have Heart’s snare sound aren’t playing at your house. 

Sap Temple: I graduated High School in 1997 and went to see Swervedriver and the opener was slow and dreamy. Alt rock from the DeLorean.

SATAN: come on… you weren’t expecting Mogwai? This sounds, well, like Satan burning himself on hot coals. 

Senzu: Word has it senzu beans don’t exist, but this chaotic metalcore band does and they’re rad. 

Seuls: Screamo and Büzzoven walk into a bar and leave with a minute long sample that sounds mysterious and unsettling...

Shock: It took 75 tracks to hit the fastcore/grindcore song and it’s awesome as shit. 

Silent Whale Becomes a Dream: Almost eight times longer than the grind jam, but it’s a wall of noise that builds into a righteous payoff. 

Snappy Days: Punk 'n’ Roll that pits Fat Mike (bass skills included) against Hellacopters. Only one will survive!

Solitone: Solitone doesn’t sound solo. In fact, it’s immense and pummeling screamo with doom for legs. 

Ssanahtes: Terrifying skramz that lives in a cave. In that cave, they found a pump organ. El Fìn.

Syndrome 81: It’s kinda fucked up they put a song by Syndrome 81 as song 80. That said, this is a bit of me. Leather jacket hardcore. 

To Languish: Queer folx from Sweden making rad grind/emo violence a la HIRS Collective. 

Topsy Turvy’s: What do the Turvy’s possess? Punctuation or not, this is super fun and catchy indie punk. 

Traverse: Remember Cadillac Blindside? Of course you don’t but maybe you’ll check them out if you made it this far. This band rips. 

Tricycle: This song structure rules but has me all kinds of confused. Arty and aggressive bass-heavy punk. 

Ulrich: Not a Lars side project, fortunately. Sounds like Interpol covering Beastmilk covering Editors surrounding themselves in candlelight. 

Wank for Peace: Not sure what I expected from a band that sounds like a masturbatory fundraiser, but this is instrumental moodiness done right. 

Watch It Burn: Toulouse hXc that could play at every US hardcore fest should they ever happen again. 

Waykopp: Earnest indie punk with a backpack full of whoa’s and Beach Slang vox. Fun stuff.

Wednesday Sound Murder: Something old (nü metal), something new (production), something borrowed (Slipknot’s DJ?), something blue (it sounds bummed). 

Yarostan: Is there a class in French schools that teaches how to pen epic skramz? It’d seem so and these peeps got an A+. 

Young Harts: Rousing folk-punk that sounds like a jugband that replaced all the jugs with backing vocals. Defiance, Ohio would be proud. 

Youth Avoiders: One of my favorite bands playing jangly and ripping hardcore punk. Great band being great. 

Yvngdraven: Spooky acoustic stuff with trap beats and Ghostmane screams. Wicca Phase’s eternal influence clearly travels well. 

Zeropolis: I’ve listened this far twice and still don’t know what this is. Remember that band Intro5pect? Synth-laden computer punks that’d be the bar-band in a dystopian sci-if film.

Get It

Tagged: ghost town initiative