Various Backcomb'n'Beat

Rooting among the darkest corners of any musical genre usually turns up more trash than treasure - ask any garage-punk aficionado contemplating the nth volume of Back from the Grave. But Backcomb'n'Beat, the third volume in the "Dream Babes" series of 1960s British "girl sounds" compilations, suggests there were more gems coming out of "swinging London" than the buying public could absorb. How else to explain the obscurity of the McGinleys' scorching anti-love song "Sweet and Tender Romance," featuring young session guitarist Jimmy Page using his six strings to articulate teenage hormonal chaos, or Julie Driscoll's "I Know You Love Me Not," a hyper-dramatic epic in which a broken heart summons the end of time? This was an era when pop was writ large: no quantity of violins, kettle drums, echo chambers or auxiliary hand-clappers were too much to help a song make its point - usually in little more than two minutes. Britney may be voicing similar concerns today (boys are scum, apparently), but she has some way to go before she sounds as gloriously indulgent as this. (RPM)