In the last installment of this column, we covered a clutch of killer punk box sets from the reinvigorated punk legacy label, Captain Oi! Records. At the speed of a blast-beat, the Captain has been reissuing even more classic, early punk stuff, and this time out we’ve got a serious batch to go through.
Out of all of the UK’s second-wave punk bands still in existence, The Adicts are quite possibly the most successful. Still putting out relevant new music to this day, the band tours regularly, selling out venues across the globe. The band’s appeal has always hinged upon two major factors: its flamboyant, theatrical image—as exemplified by make-up clad front man Monkey and his gang of Clockwork Orange droogs—and its infectious, pop-infused numbers. And, some 40 years later, it’s still working, the band’s latest LP And It Was So! being a downright stunner.
The Albums 1982-87 box set collects the band’s second through fourth studio albums (Sound of Music, Smart Alex and Fifth Overture), plus a disc of rarities and the live album Live and Loud!. While the band’s classic debut Songs of Praise from 1981 is startlingly missing, Smart Alex (1985) stands as some of the band’s best work. Having just been dropped by Warner Bros., the band went back to its indie roots, issuing the album on Razor Records, where it would climb to the top 10 of the UK indie charts. Numbers like “Tokyo,” “Troubadour,” “Runaway” and the title track, helping to cement the band’s knack for pop-punk classics. This set features all five discs in sleeves that replicate the original LP covers, plus a book.
Listening to early G.B.H. for the first time is like doing a straight shot of gasoline with a Clorox chaser. The band’s brash combo of speed, volume and sheer ferocity made it a standout in the second-wave UK punk scene. But just prior to that, Britain’s original punk scene had all but fizzled out at the dawn of the ‘80s, while the more avant-garde sounds of the art-school crowd dominated the indie scene. But soon, punks fed-up with the artier set started forming bands, and the results were louder, faster, and at times, more metal. Along with spiky nihilists Discharge and political malcontents The Exploited, G.B.H. played an influential role in furthering the punk renaissance and helping to foster thrash metal.
Charged G.B.H: 1981-84 is a 4-disc box set consisting of the band’s prime-era catalog. The set kicks off with the band’s debut mini LP Leather, Bristles, Studs and Acne (1981). The band’s first proper album City Baby Attacked By Rats is represented here in all its trashy glory, and still stands as G.B.H.’s finest hour with tracks like “Time Bomb,” “Maniac,” and the iconic “Sick Boy.” The set also includes City Baby’s Revenge, plus a somewhat rough live album that hasn’t been available for a long time. With the set comes a color booklet that details bits of the band’s history, and it’s all tucked neatly into a deluxe little box.
The Cock Sparrer saga is one of the more fascinating ones. The band starts out very young during the mid ‘70s, works its way out of the slums, scores a major-label deal (Decca) during the UK punk signing frenzy, fails to sell big enough, gets dropped and signs a new deal with a smaller label. What really separates Cock Sparrer from hordes of other street punk bands was/is its timeless and powerful rock ‘n’ punk sound. Rooted in bluesy hard rock, early Cock Sparrer had a swaggering groove that often had more in common with the likes of AC/DC than say, artier punk bands such as Gang of Four. Led by singer Colin McFaul, the band continues to tour and release its signature rousing classic punk.
The Albums 1978-87 features some of the band’s earliest output, including its ultra-rare self-titled debut LP that was originally only released in Spain, for some odd reason. Tracks like “Runnin’ Riot” and “Teenage Heart” sound refreshingly rock ‘n’ roll, thunderous and incendiary, which is a fairly novel thing these days. The band’s classic cover the Rolling Stones’ “We Love You,” is also a standout, highlighting McFaul’s twisted vocals and some driving guitar riffs. The set also includes the albums Shock Troops and Running Riot in ’84, plus the Live and Loud concert LP. This set includes 53 remastered tracks in total, all packed nicely in a clamshell case with a booklet.
While far from a household name in these parts, Blitz caused a bit of a stir in the early ‘80s with its gritty brand of working-class street punk. But aside from an impressive debut with 1982’s Voice of a Generation and critical acclaim, what’s interesting about the band was the direction it chose to go in after its celebrated first album.
Rather than resting on its laurels and churning out more traditional punk goodness, the band went an entirely different direction with its second album Second Empire Justice. Bypassing its punk roots, the band—now featuring just two of its core members Carl Fisher and Charlie Howe—opted for a more bleak, post-punk sound akin to Joy Division and The Cure, and complete with somber vocals, textural guitars and something that sounds suspiciously like a drum machine.
Blitz: The Albums features the band’s debut, the aforementioned Second Empire Justice a live concert, a disc of rarities and the band’s last album, the comeback The Killing Dream from 1990, all in sterling remastered sound and a tidy clamshell case.
For questions, comments or something you’d like to see, drop me a note at Retrohead77@yahoo.com. Cheers, Kaz