Album review

Various Artists

Possibly my favourite ever band, never mind just ‘punk’ band, came from Bristol you know? Five Knuckle were around in the mid ‘noughties’ and were obviously too late for a compilation such as this, but it just goes to show the depth and longevity of the punk scene in the South West.

This twenty-track CD highlights many of the bands that were around between 1977 and 1983. The whole point of this collection is to showcase the musical mood of Bristol during that period, but really it’s quite illustrative of what was going on in cities the length and breadth of the UK at the time. And where this album also scores is that the tracks are listed chronologically, so the listener can see how the punk scene was changing during that six year period, with the songs becoming harsher, harder and more abrasive as the album (and years) progress.

Opening with one of the two most famous bands of the time to come from the city (although there are several listed here who will be remembered by original punk fans) The Cortinas were one of the first pioneers of this ‘new’ music. They played the city’s Roxy Club, released a couple of singles on the Step Forward label, were featured on the cover of the seminal Sniffin’ Glue fanzine and recorded a Peel Session. ‘Defiant Pose’ is their contribution to the compilation and is pure old school punk bliss with everything you’d expect from an original punk band. Simple, repeated riffs, shouty vocals and gang-backing.

‘National Front’ by The Pigs follows. Brilliant! A song with a distinct anti-racism message…. even if it is put across in a rather patronising manner: “The National Front are fascists, there’s nothing wrong with the black kids … no way” the chorus goes. Genuine sentiment, of course but could that line pass the PC brigade today? Ah… the ‘innocence’ of 1977!

The Pigs actually have a second contribution shortly thereafter: ‘Youthenasia’ The recording sounds like it was done with their dad’s old tape recorder in the living room, but this just adds to the overall flavour of the album. The previous two tracks are interspersed by two from 1978 and Social Security – ‘I Don’t Want My Heart To Rule My Head’ is the first, the guitar riff seemingly plaigarised from The Banned’s hit at the turn of 1977, ‘Little Girl.’ Their second song is ‘Choc Ice’ which is slightly Buzzcocks-esque in sound.

So – off to a blistering start… and it continues this way right through to the end. I’d happily write all night long in praise of this collection, but time and space is a bit of an inhibitor. Instead, I shall just mention the following highlights….well, EVERY track is a gem, but these just shine a little brighter for me:

Vice Squad were always favourites of mine, so it’s good to see ‘Resurrection’ included here. And the political age in which we lived then is brought to the for with two songs that relate to the ‘troubles’ in Northern Ireland at that time: 48 Hours have ‘A Soldier’ (Demo) included and The Verdict sing ‘IRA Man.’ The X-certs have two songs that were previously unreleased – ‘Fight Back’ is a chugging guitar driven punk anthem with a shout-a-long chorus, while ‘Stop The Fussing And The Fighting’ is a nine and a half dub / reggae epic. Again, the almost primitive sound on this just takes you right back to the time and parties in dingy basements.

Moving onwards through time, the album culminates with some early hardcore / Oi from the early Eighties. You can tell by the change of tone in the bands’ names that the music has taken on a more aggressive feel. The likes of Disorder; Chaos Uk; Lunatic Fringe; Chaotic Dischord and Onslaught are all represented with tracks that just go to show even Punk moves with the times.

For anyone around at the inception of the punk scene, this is an essential.
It’ll be straight to the top of my personal playlist, I can tell you!