On stage last week in Raleigh, Whatever Brains frontman Rich Ivey reminded the audience that he had copies of a fresh tape compilation he made. As with most every serious thing the prankster punk says, it was followed quickly by a sarcastic barb. "Three of our bands are on it," he scoffed, striking at the integrity of his own curatorial project. The tape—titled Dick's Picks 4006, in honor or jest of The Grateful Dead's exhaustive live series—gathers up Ivey's buddy musicians for an 11-song jaunt that's incredibly fun. Though Ivey's joke zeroed in on the musicians' closeness as a negative, that kinship turns out to be the collection's greatest strength.
Dick's Picks is limited to 300 copies and funded by contributions from the bands included, so there's absolutely no pressure: In the company of friends, this fleet of mostly fuzzed-out rock acts stretches out and does whatever it wants. Some offer one-off covers. Others take the opportunity to explore sounds that wouldn't quite fit on their own records. Dick's Picks, then, is a record where anything goes and most everything works.
It's well-balanced, too: Charlotte's Brain F≠ offer another slab of their brutal and brutally hooky garage punk, by way of a furious Minutemen cover. Such safe moves are countered by captivating left turns: Virginia's raucous Invisible Hand stretches out their classic rock tendencies with "Slow Burn," sprawling into psyched-out balladry complete with Queen-style harmonies. Spider Bags forgo their typical drunken jams for an instrumental that dips a meandering guitar line lifted from '70s soft rock in a mire of distortion, creating a vibe that's half-haunting, half-relaxing. Really good friends push one another forward, even as they have fun. On Dick's Picks, there's a great deal of both.