Before we get into these new reissues, I want to make special mention of the classic UK label Captain Oi!, from which these new releases come forth. Launched by Mark Brennan, bassist of classic punks The Business, the label reissued many long-lost punk gems over the span of a couple decades. For the past few years, I hadn’t heard or seen much from Mark and company, assuming that streaming and file sharing had finally done them in. But now, with an exclusive association with the mighty Cherry Records, one of the biggest reissue labels on Earth, the Captain is back on board—and with some killer new box sets in tow.
Specializing in mostly first- and second-wave UK punk artists, the Captain has been busy as of late, revitalizing earlier reissues into convenient anthology collections, with art and mini-LP packaging that replicates the original vinyl releases in a svelte clamshell case, all at a special price.
This time out, three bands from the early scene have gotten the treatment: Toy Dolls, Peter and the Test Tube Babies and Angelic Upstarts. Starting at the lighter end of the scale, Toy Dolls have been churning out their unique brand of sardonic pop-punk for decades. In the same spirit as pop punk pioneers The Adicts and The Dickies, the band has a prolific catalog and even managed to score a UK hit or sorts with the bouncy but driving “Nellie the Elephant” back in the day.
The Toy Dolls: The Albums 1983-87 collects the band’s first four albums, plus 20 extra tracks, including non-LP tracks from comps and early single versions. For my money, the first album Dig That Groove Baby is worth the cost of this set alone, with standouts “Dougy Giro” and “Glenda and the Test Tube Baby” with its slightly eerie sound.
Speaking of bastards born through the wonders of science, Peter and the Test Tube Babies created a joyful noise with an equally humorous slant. Bringing a slightly edgier slant to the proceedings, the band—along with their brethren the Toy Dolls—were loosely categorized into the “Punk Pathetique” subgenre that celebrated working-class themes with a healthy shot of humor. Led by Peter Bywaters on vocals and Del Strangefish on guitar—the latter eventually joining gothic-pop practitioners Flesh for Lulu and writing their biggest hit—the band’s catalog is vast.
Peter & The Test Tube Babies: The Albums 1982-87 includes all of the band’s recordings from the era across six discs. The debut, Pissed & Proud still stands as one of second-wave punk’s best offerings, and this remastered version does it due justice.
Last up, from the harder side of the spectrum, Angelic Upstarts. With a far heavier, politically charged sound, the band are looked upon as early enablers of the burgeoning Oi! scene of the day. With an anti-fascist stance and a bit of happenstance, the band scored a major label deal with Warner Bros. to release its debut—and best album—Teenage Warning in 1979. Led by singer and only remaining original member, Thomas “Mensi” Mensforth, the band still continues to slot up high on the punk festival bills; it’s political ideology finding new appeal in the current political angst.
Angelic Upstarts: The Albums 1979-1982 features the classic debut, plus four more albums from the era, which would turn out to be its most successful period. The set also includes the controversial single, “The Murder of Liddle Towers,” a stunner of a number that still hasn’t aged one bit.
For questions, comments or something you’d like to see, drop me a note at Retrohead77@yahoo.com. Cheers, Kaz